City will be looking to close the gap between themselves and the promotion spots on the Eastern Conference table when they travel to Richmond for Friday night football in round 16 of the PS4 NPL2 Season.
Goals by Marko Delic and Stefan Colakovski were not enough for City to claim all three points when they hosted Box Hill United in round 15, sharing the spoils as the two sides played out a two all draw.
The result means that City have only taken 5 points from a possible 12 on offer over the past month - and this sputtering form has seen them begin to lose touch with the two rampant Dandenong sides atop the NPL2 Eastern Conference.
Despite still sitting in third place on the table after the challenging month; City, who are on 25 points, trail league leaders Dandenong City by 7 points and the second placed Dandenong Thunder by 5 - with first position at season’s end gaining automatic promotion to the NPL and second place entering a playoff with the second placed team in the Western conference.
Compounding the pressure on the young City squad, Archie Thompson’s Murray United now sit only three points behind them in fourth position, albeit it with a goal difference inferior to City’s by four goals.
In more positive news for City however, The Box Hill clash saw the return of Gerrie Sylaidos to the starting line-up. The winger known as “Speedy Gonzalez” was able to put in a 65-minute shift in his start before being subbed off for Josh Cavallo.
Despite the challenges facing City, their round 16 opponents Richmond will very likely be looking at their situation with envy.
Relegated from the NPL last year, Richmond underwent a period of upheaval in the offseason, bringing in former Altona East, North Sunshine and Cairnlea coach Paul Donnelly to serve as head coach, who oversaw a major turnover in the playing list.
The new squad features a bevy of talent from the U20 side that won the 2016 NPL championship as well as former Doncaster Rovers captain Rob Taylor and Mauritian youth representative and former Melbourne Victory Youth player Marcus Dimanche.This relatively new and youthful playing list however, has struggled so far this season; and Richmond find themselves in 9th position on the Eastern Conference table with only 13 points to their name.
This poor start to the season came to a head midweek, when Donnelly and star Argentine forward Gonazlo Freddi departed the club.
Freddi had scored five goals in 15 games for Richmond but has left the club to join Murray United's chase for promotion.
Donnelly has been replaced by former Green Gully U20s and Senior caretaker coach Brian Venaga, who only lost one game during his 13 game run as coach of the Green Gully senior side.
Despite this mideweek upheavel, Richmond will can come into the game with some psychological boost from their result in round 15, which saw them hold the Dandenong Thunder – who had defeated City the previous week four goals to two – to a two all draw at home.
Combined with their result with City earlier in the season – Richmond held City to a two all draw away at the City Football Academy in round 1- Richmond will hold some hope of getting a win to put a bright finish on a very difficult week.
The two sides will meet on Friday night – City’s only taste of Friday night football this year – at Kevin Bartlett Reserve in Richmond for an 8:30pm kick-off.
The U20 curtain raiser - which kicks off at 6:30pm – looks set to provide a fascinating contest as well, with the top two teams on the Eastern Conference table – City are top on 34 points whilst Richmond sit in second on 32 – clashing with top spot on the line.
NPL Victoria - Round 16
Richmond SC 1953 v Melbourne City
Friday 26 May
Kevin Bartlett Reserve, Richmond
Seniors: 8.30pm Under 20’s: 6.30pm
Entry at gate prices