Friday night’s Australia Cup Round of 32 match at Popondetta Park had all the makings of a game that could go any which way, with both sides needing a win for different reasons.
For the hosts, Mt Druitt Town Rangers needed momentum as they are mired in an NPL NSW Men’s relegation battle and at real risk of League One football next season.
For the visiting Canberra Croatia FC, who sit in sixth in NPL ACT and brought plenty of travelling support, a win would keep their shot at silverware alive.
Mt Druitt would strike first, with Solomon-Johnn Monahan-Vaiika sending a rocket across the face of goal into the side netting of the far post, putting the hosts on their way to a badly needed win in the 36th minute.
A strong start to the second half saw Mt Druitt unable to extend its lead despite multiple chances. Stephen Dominici would level the scoring for Canberra Croatia.
Anthony Frangie would put Mt Druitt back in the lead, and add a brace to his name not long after to seal a 3-1 victory for the hosts in Sydney’s West.
“It’s good to be back, good to be back on the scoresheet, and good to get the win,” Frangie said after the game.
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While the win and advancement to the Round of 16 is welcome for Mt Druitt, it won’t be celebrating for long.
The side has to immediately turn its attention to a bottom-of-the-table clash with the Sutherland Sharks on Tuesday night in the league.
A win for Sutherland would see them safe from relegation, while for Mt Druitt, the three points are a necessity as it looks to move out of the promotion/relegation play-off spot on the ladder.
“It’s a big game coming up, and we’ve got a busy schedule, with not too much of a break,” Frangie said.
“We’ve just got to prepare for Sutho, take them on, try and get a point or three, as well as against Marconi next Saturday.”
In addition to momentum, Frangie said the side will be taking high spirits into the match.
For Frangie, this marks his second appearance in the Round of 16, and he described the feeling as good.
He is also hoping for an away trip for the Round of 16, with a particular type of location in mind.
“Somewhere hot, extremely hot,” he said with a chuckle.
“Maybe Cairns, Darwin, depends [on] who gets the results.”
Sutherland Sharks host Mt Druitt Town Rangers on Tuesday night at Seymour Shaw with a 7:30pm kick-off. You can watch the game on NPL.TV