Hakoah would prove a bridge too far for the Blueys (Photo — Tarrawanna Blueys)

5 Things to Watch for in Round 11 of the IPL

The Illawarra Premier League is flying by and we are just one round away from the halfway point. The last seven days saw a few upset results while Tarrawanna’s FFA Cup journey came to an end. Let’s go over the five things I’ll be looking out for the final round of the opening half of the season.

1 — The Blueys need to refocus after FFA Cup exit

Tarrawanna’s FFA Cup run was ended on Wednesday night, going down 4–0 to NPL 1 club Hakoah Sydney City. In front of a bumper crowd, the Blueys were at times there own worst enemies conceding a couple of uncharacteristically sloppy goals.

NPL 1 opposition was always going to be a tough ask, however, coach Peter Willis recognises the experience will benefit his side, “Tonight is a bit of a downer but we have had a good journey,” adding, “The Cup run has been good for us, it has bonded the boys together, we have started playing a lot better since the Cup run and hopefully that [improved performance] will continue.”

Now the Blueys’ attention will be primarily focussed on securing finals football for a second successive season. They have a daunting run coming up, facing the top three and Fernhill — who sprung them in Round 1 — in their next four matches. They will also be without Corey Horner for this weekend’s Wollongong Olympic match after the defender was sent off in the second half against Hakoah.

2 — Fernhill to finish the first half of the season in the top five

Shinsei Tanaka (left) has been one of the main protagonists in perhaps the story of the season so far (Photo — illawarrapremierleague.com)

I expected Fernhill to be propping everybody up at this stage of the season but quite incredibly they have continued to defy the odds and by the end of the round, I think they will be sitting in the top five.

There is a pattern emerging where they have secure narrow victories or get handly beaten, however, considering pretty much everyone in Illawarra football had them penned in to finish last, it’s working.

The question now is can they maintain their momentum going into the second half of the season?

Since the Premier League has been a 12 team league with a top five, the average points total for 5th is 35 points. If the Foxes beat Picton on Saturday they will be on 18 — more than halfway there.

3 — Albion Park to have their big boy credentials tested

White Eagles’ Shayne Ardle (Photo — Kiah Hufton)

The White Eagles suffered their first defeat of the league season last weekend, losing 2–1 to top of the table Bulli. That result saw them drop two places into 4th but the defeat may be a blessing in disguise for Paul Carter’s side. Considering they have they most draws in the league, perhaps some were more concerned with not losing than claiming all three points.

They face a tough task this Saturday when they host Wollongong United who sit a point above them after five league wins in a row. A win for Albion Park would throw them back into the title conversation while a defeat could see them within a defeat of falling out of the top five.

4 — Woonona will be safe with another win

The bearded Jacob Madden hasn’t conceded in his last three league matched (Photo — illawarrapremierleague.com)

The Sharks continued their midseason resurgence last weekend with a creditable nil-all draw with finals contenders Tarrawanna. The result extended their unbeaten run to four matches in all competitions, a spell which includes three clean sheets.

This upturn in form has seen them go from zero to seven points in a blink and I am confident another three points would secure top-flight football for the club in 2019. They have a massive opportunity to collect those points when they visit Dandaloo Sports Ground to face South Coast United who come into the match a week after breaking their nine-match losing run with a 2–2 draw with Cringila.

On this week’s FSC Weekly, United player-coach Greg Valic was optimistic it was a result which could be built upon. I am leaning towards a draw which in fairness wouldn’t be catastrophic for the Sharks.

5 — Bulli to be top at the turn of the season

Bulli attacker Mitch Del Turco (middle) has been one of the signings of the season (Photo — Kiah Hufton)

Well wouldn’t you know it, a game away from the midpoint of the season and the perennial league contenders remain at the top of the table having so far only been off it for a couple of 24 hours stints.

The remarkable thing is, having watched Bulli on half a dozen competitive occasions this season, they haven’t really impressed. But the record speaks for itself — they have the most wins, most goals for and least goals against.

On Sunday they take on Corrimal — who are perhaps the most inconsistent side in the league — at Memorial Park. If the ‘I picked up three points they will be leading the way at the turn but as their title rivals will already be writing in the comments section, “You don’t win the league in June.”

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Dylan Arvela

Dylan Arvela

Journalist, writer, UOW political grad, football lover and author of ‘A Drop in the Ocean: The story of Woonona’s Illawarra Premier League championship’.