Illawarra Mercury Premier League – Finals Week Three Preview

PL-F3

U20s – Sunday 15 September

Fernhill FC (3rd) vs Bulli FC (2nd) @ Memorial Park – 10am

Fernhill and Bulli will face off for the second time this finals campaign for a spot in the grand final against Wollongong United.

Bulli had no issues keeping their finals campaign on track last weekend, with the side winning their Minor semi-final with a strong 4-0 score line over Albion Park White Eagles at JJ Kelly Park thanks to goals from Cooper Grossmann, Seamus Macken-Walsh, Eden McCall and Sam Mckellar. The win snapped a streak of six games without a win for the side and now leaves Bulli 90 minutes from a rematch of last year’s decider. The side will no doubt be looking to their established scorers in McCall and Macken-Walsh to get them over the line, with the side needing to be on top form to get past a defensively tough Fernhill side.

Meanwhile the Foxes will be looking to right the ship after the side failed to make the big dance at the first port of call, with the side falling to a 1-0 defeat against Wollongong United in the Major semi-final at Tarrawanna Oval last weekend. The loss was the first defeat in seven games for the Foxes and the side will now need to quickly put the defeat behind them if they are keep the quest for their first Youth Grade title since 1987 on track. The side will be hopeful their front-line is powerful enough to push past the Bulli backline, with Fernhill’s top scorers Behar Miftari, Aaron Cupitt and Jarrod Mcdean combining for 27 goals this campaign – just under half of the Foxes’ total goals scored this campaign.

Fernhill did the job against Bulli two weeks ago in the Qualifying Final, with goals from Liam Chilton and Daniel Darocha helping the Foxes to a 2-0 win. With a grand final spot on the line and both sides swapping form after last weekend, this match promises to go down to the wire, with Fernhill’s experience against the Bulli side potentially being just enough to see the side through.

Prediction – Fernhill FC

U23s – Sunday 15 September

Tarrawanna Blueys (2nd) vs Corrimal Rangers (3rd) @ Memorial Park – 12:15pm

Tarrawanna and Corrimal will be fighting for a spot in the U23s Grand Final against Wollongong United when they face off in the Preliminary Final.

Tarrawanna had another bright start last weekend against Wollongong United, with Caleb Grace sending the side a goal up in the opening ten minutes, but it was United who pulled through and prevailed in a 2-1 victory at Tarrawanna Oval. The loss means the Blueys have a worrying form guide heading into the preliminary final, with the side having won just two of their last five matches. However, with the side likely to call on their strong squad depth for the encounter, players such as Kaydin Harrison (17 matches) and Brody Page (6 goals in 19 games) could be given the spotlight to shine and send Tarrawanna into the decider.

Meanwhile Corrimal kept their campaign afloat by the thinnest of margins, seeing off Albion Park White Eagles 4-3 on penalties after an exciting 3-3 draw at JJ Kelly Park in the Minor semi-final. The win was the Rangers’ first win since Round 21 and now with a spot in the big dance on the line, Corrimal will be hopeful they can continue their march towards the title as they seek to make their second U23s grand final in as many years. The Rangers will need to rely on their frontline to get past a resolute Blueys backline, but the side will also need to be looking at players like their keeper Yanni Mavrikis (19 games) to produce another game of top-drawer saves if Corrimal are to take the result.

Tarrawanna have the most recent bragging rights, seeing off Corrimal 2-1 in the Qualifying Final two weeks ago thanks to goals from Tyson Black and Caleb Grace. With both sides looking to shoot their shot at glory with a spot in the grand final, this match could go either way, but Corrimal’s home advantage may just be enough to push them over the line.

Prediction – Corrimal Rangers

First Grade – Sunday 15 September

Corrimal Rangers (3rd) vs Tarrawanna Blueys (5th) @ Memorial Park – 2:30pm

Corrimal Rangers and Tarrawanna Blueys will both be seeking to book the final ticket to the Illawarra’s biggest game of football when they face off in the Preliminary Final on Sunday.

Corrimal were forced to go the full 120 minutes last weekend against Wollongong Olympic in the Major semi-final, with the side falling 2-1 thanks to a Yusuke Ueda pair. Rob Jonoski’s side however, will not be in any better shape heading into this weekend’s clash, with both star scorer Van Elia and experienced defender Alvin Ceccoli in doubt after picking up knocks against Olympic, while the Rangers will also be without Ben Zucco – who was given his marching orders against Olympic last weekend – and captain Tim Wylie, who will miss the match through yellow card accumulation. With Corrimal’s starting side deeply affected, the match will prove a chance for players to etch their spot in the side, with players like Sam Matthews (18 games), Paul Guido (21 games) and Daniel Carreno (19 games) looking to work their way into a solid starting role for the side.

Tarrawanna, on the other hand, are looking to keep their Cinderella run going, with the fifth-placed side booking their spot in the Preliminary Final thanks to a 2-1 win over Albion Park White Eagles at Tarrawanna Oval. Peter Willis’ side are on the precipice of returning to the grand final for the first time since 2011 and the side will be hoping their deep finals run can continue for just one more match. The Blueys have hit a patch of form at the right time of the campaign, winning three of their last four matches, but the side will need to dig deep if they are to progress once more. Players like Matthew Naylor (24 games) and Michael Robinson (9 games) will need to be on top form in the backline to shut down the top-scoring Rangers side, while the Blueys will be looking towards Stephen Lloyd (8 goals in 17 games) and youngster Nicolas Tomasiello (17 games) to potentially provide the right options up front to fire the Blueys into the decider.

Tarrawanna have not lost to Corrimal yet this campaign, with the side seeing the Rangers off 2-0 in Round 10 and downing them once again in a 3-1 win in Round 21. While Tarrawanna’s dream story marches on, Corrimal will be hoping their home advantage can prove enough to get the side over the line and while this match will almost certainly prove to be a toss-up, the desire for the Blueys to continue their deep run might prove just enough to see them into the grand final.

Prediction – Tarrawanna Blueys

Preview by Cal Behrendt, on Twitter @CalBehrendt

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