Forrestfield United face possibly the toughest task in the National Premier Leagues WA at the moment when they take on ECU Joondalup – how to stop Daryl Nicol.
The Scot has scorched to the top of the goalscoring charts with nine goals in as many games and on Wednesday made it two hat-tricks in five days as he helped his side progress in the FFA Cup at the expense of UWA-Nedlands.
Fortunately for United, coach Rod Banjac has devised a plan to keep Nicol in check at ECU Joondalup Stadium on Saturday.
“A sledgehammer!” laughed Banjac.
Before anyone worries Banjac is taking his pre-game inspiration from Oscar-winning movie I, Tonya, he is unsparing in his admiration for the Jacks winger.
He said: “People know how I feel about mercenaries who come here just to pick up the money but this kid is very good and also a good role model. I would happily pay 10 bucks any day of the week to watch him.
“Now it’s up to us to find a way to keep him quiet and we have some good players of our own.”
ECU coach Dale McCulloch won’t argue with Banjac’s assessment of his player and revealed how they battled to keep hold of him in the close season.
“He’s on fire,” McCulloch said.
“He is a good player and a good lad. A couple of clubs came in for him and we fought hard to keep him. I would expect more clubs to be in for him again, but the way we are progressing we think he will want to be part of it.
“Don’t get me wrong, if it’s a professional club that’s a different story. We’d be happy for him to move on then, as we say to all our players. But if it’s someone from our league then we want them to stay with us.”
ECU were the last team to be beaten in the NPL this season and are just a point behind leaders Perth Glory in fourth.
“Things are going well so far and we’ve only lost one game,” McCulloch added.
“We’ve got a big squad and have rotated really well. We’ve had a few injuries and suspensions but the kids who have come in have stepped up to the mark.”
McCulloch will wait to see how his players pull up after their midweek cup win before naming his team, with Adam Tong and Andy Higgins his biggest concerns.
As for Forrestfield, they have different immediate objectives but are also going along nicely in the top division after two promotions in three seasons.
They are third from bottom but only four points behind sixth-placed Inglewood, and in midweek advanced in the FFA Cup with a 4-1 defeat of Joondalup United.
“It was a great win; it was almost the perfect game from us,” Banjac said.
“We’ve had some narrow losses but the boys are learning. It’s a young squad; apart from Perth Glory we are by far the youngest team in the league and I don’t mind admitting we went into the season a little bit undercooked. But we knew as the season goes on we would close the gap and I believe that’s what’s happening.
“It’ll be interesting to see how we shape up on Saturday. They are a good side.”
Banjac is confident he will have a full-strength squad available for the match.
“The feedback is everyone is okay and raring to go for Saturday,” he said.
All of this weekend’s Round 10 matches are at 3pm on Saturday.
Perth Glory, who got a collective flea in their ear from coach John Gibson last week despite recovering from 2-0 down to win and go top, host Inglewood, while Bayswater are out to avoid a fourth straight loss in all competitions at Subiaco.
Floreat and Armadale clash after both sides enjoyed impressive FFA Cup victories, and Balcatta are chasing a fifth consecutive league win at home to Cockburn City.
Sorrento will look to get out of their slump at home to Joondalup United, while Stirling Lions face second-placed Perth SC at Macedonia Park.
Saturday, April 28
Perth Glory v Inglewood United (Ashfield Arena, 3pm)
Floreat Athena v Armadale (E&D Litis Stadium, 3pm)
ECU Joondalup v Forrestfield United (ECU Joondalup Stadium, 3pm)
Balcatta v Cockburn City (Grindleford Reserve, 3pm)
Stirling Lions v Perth SC (Macedonia Park, 3pm)
Sorrento v Joondalup United (Percy Doyle Reserve, 3pm)
Subiaco v Bayswater City (Rosalie Park, 3pm)