Croydon FC and the North Eastern MetroStars kicked off Round 14 with their annual Indigenous Round matchup (Image: Adam Butler/@8zerokms)

A hat-trick hero helped his side out of the drop zone, while there was a big winner in the annual Indigenous Round celebration. All that and more in Round 14 of the 2022 NPL SA season.

A hat-trick hero helped his side out of the drop zone, while there was a big winner in the annual Indigenous Round celebration. All that and more in Round 14 of the 2022 NPL SA season.

Stars Light Up

Croydon FC 0-4 North Eastern MetroStars

Round 14 kicked off with Croydon FC and the North Eastern MetroStars facing off in their annual celebration of Indigenous Round. After a powerful smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country, both sides were ready for action in their indigenous jerseys, but only one was to shine.

After a strong start, Metro converted its dominance with a Christian Esposito free-kick being deflected past John Hall to open the scoring 20 minutes in. Esposito scored again before the end of the first half, with Ariath Piol releasing the veteran who beat John Hall in a staring contest, finishing coolly to double his side’s advantage on the stroke of halftime.

The second half was the Piol show, with the youngster being in the right place at the right time and tapping in a saved Esposito shot. Piol iced the game at the hour mark, running onto an Esposito through ball and dinking the keeper with aplomb; a finish that resembled a striker’s with years of experience, not a teenager.

A strong Metro win and a solid team performance saw American import Cameron Woodfin be awarded the Man of the Match award for the second week running. This week he received the Travis Dodd medal, named after the former Metro player and current Croydon coach who was the first Indigenous player to score a goal for the Socceroos.

Briscoe Heating Up

Sturt Lions 1-4 Adelaide Comets

The Adelaide Comets visited the newly-opened Karinya Reserve for the first time to take on 2021 semi-final adversaries Sturt Lions. The visitors were keen for a good start and they got exactly that, putting the hosts on the back foot early.

Only nine minutes into the encounter, a ball from defence found Tom Briscoe who took his touch slightly wide but finished expertly with his left. The Lions are a stubborn opposition and found an equaliser 20 minutes later with Tyreece Conway having his initial shot saved by Dan Vaughan, but converting the fortunate rebound.

The worst time to concede is before halftime, with a coach having to scrap his halftime address; Sturt coach Lino Fusco was put in that situation after Scott Nagel scored a collector’s item to give the Comets a deserved lead at the break. It was all downhill from there, Tom Giannakopoulos popping up in a corner during the second half to make it three.

As the game was wrapping up, Briscoe beat the offside trap and with a clinical finish recorded his brace. Even though he did not start the season on the pitch, the forward is beginning to string together a nice run of form and will be a crucial part of Barney Smith’s plans to finally get past the last hurdle on Grand Final day.

Stefan Simic Shines

South Adelaide Panthers 2-5 West Torrens Birkalla

The Panthers returned home after the eight-goal humiliation endured at the hands of the Young Reds keen to make amends. The struggling Birkalla were their visitors down South and the Panthers rated their chances after regaining its three Rideouts.

12 minutes into the encounter, Donovan Pollock made himself big off a set piece and opened the scoring for the hosts through a header. Stefan Simic levelled proceedings just after the half-hour mark with a clinical finish in the back post to send the sides to the break level.

A disastrous ten minutes to start the second half left the hosts broken for the second week running. Just three minutes after the restart, an incisive, defence-splitting Jake Monaco pass found Nathan Munro who made no mistakes to put the visitors in front.

If that was not bad enough for the Panthers, Austin Ayoubi and Stefan Simic hit soon later and were only mere minutes apart from each other to give the visitors an astonishing three-goal lead.

West Torrens’ party was not over, with Stefan Simic celebrating his hat trick an hour into the encounter, with his side getting out of the relegation zone for the first time since Round 1. Jonathon Rideout recorded a consolation goal in injury time, but that does not change the fact that the Panthers have shipped 13 goals in two matches and currently find themselves just four points away from the drop zone.

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Campbelltown End Slump

Campbelltown City 2-1 FK Beograd

After a disastrous fortnight that saw it lose two league matches along with an unlikely cup exit to State League One side Eastern United, Campbelltown City entered Round 14 hell-bent on securing a victory against Damian Mori’s FK Beograd outfit.

After a strong start to the game, it was the usual suspect doing the damage for Beograd, Josh Mori latching onto an Antonios Natsiopoulos long ball and confidently finishing past Alex Woodlands. If the run and finish did not remind viewers of Manchester United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, then Mori pulling out the Portuguese’s “Siu” celebration certainly did the trick.

Lapses of concentration have plagued Beograd all season, and Round 14 was no different, with Damian Mori’s men inexplicably finding themselves behind just five minutes into the second half. Right after the restart, a deep, hopeful Joel Allwright cross should have been dealt with by Akok Arok who missed the ball, inviting Josh Barresi to nod in the equaliser.

A short two minutes later, Lui Ditroia combined with Adam Piscioneri, with the latter recording his first goal of the season. The score did not change and saw the hosts return to the winner’s list while the visitors were left ruing another three points cheaply surrendered.

Champions Shake Foxes

Cumberland United 1-3 Adelaide City

The Champions visited A.A. Bailey Reserve in Round 14 with an expectation to get the job comfortably against the battling Cumberland United. Despite the two sides finding themselves just about bookending the different ends of the table, it was anything but routine for City.

Paul Pezos’ side looked in complete control, as expected, and when Cumberland defender Stavros Bakopanos gave away a penalty and received his marching orders a mere 25 minutes into the encounter, it seemed like City would cruise to another comfortable win. The football gods threw a spanner in the works when Ayom Majok missed his spot-kick and Harry Thannhauser put the plucky hosts ahead; City huffed and puffed but went into the sheds a goal down.

Champions find a way and that is exactly what City did finding themself ahead less than 20 minutes into the second half, defender Tom Brown continuing his habit of popping up on the scoresheet with his head and Kur Kur scoring an impressive free-kick. The Foxes endeavoured for an equaliser but Kur Kur scored his second set piece for the night, this time his cross eluding all comers and sneaking its way to the back post to continue City’s undefeated run in season 2022, while the Foxes were relegated to the rock bottom of the ladder.

Not This Week!

Adelaide Olympic ?-? Adelaide United

The Young Reds and Olympic were originally supposed to play on Saturday night, the match then got delayed to Tuesday before finally being rescheduled for Wednesday 29th June.

The postponement would frustrate both sides for different reasons. Olympic’s inactivity saw them drop into the relegation zone for the first time this campaign, meanwhile, the Young Reds would be restless with a week off after recording an eight-goal win in Round 13, making a week off far from ideal in a chase for finals football.

Both sides can use their game in hand to their advantage but they will have to accept a heavy schedule with the catchup match being assigned a mid-week kickoff.

Match to Watch in Round 15

Round 15 has a selection of tantalising matchups looming such as the second grand final rematch of the season, but attention should also be lower on the table where the degrees of separation are decreasing by the week.

Fresh out of the relegation zone after putting South Adelaide to the sword, West Torrens Birkalla hosts Adelaide Olympic, the side that replaced them, at Jack Smith Park. Both sides have struggled for consistency in season 2022, but a win on Saturday can draw a line in the sand.

Olympic may have fallen into the drop zone, but still maintain a game in hand on the Birks, a win for the visitors can ensure they are in a position to take full advantage of it. On the other hand, the hosts can negate Olympic’s advantage with a win and for the first time since Round 1 put destiny back in its own hands.

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