The final round of the NPL WA on Saturday promises to be a thriller with the championship, top four places and relegation spots still up in the air.
Perth Glory will win the title with victory at relegation-haunted Subiaco. Even a draw will be enough unless Perth SC can run up a rugby score against bottom club Joondalup United – Ramon Falzon’s team have to make up 15 goals on Glory.
Both Glory and Perth SC are guaranteed to be in the Top Four Cup and they will be joined by Bayswater City and Inglewood United if both take maximum points from their respective games. If they don’t then the door could open for Cockburn City and ECU Joondalup to extend their seasons.
The story at the foot of the table is that second bottom Forrestfield must better Subiaco’s result or they are down. Meanwhile the team that finishes third bottom – Forrestfield, Subiaco or Balcatta – will have to wait to see who finishes top of State League Division One next month before learning if they are also relegated automatically or face a play-off.
Wherever your loyalty, Saturday is a day not to miss.
The big issue at the top is, of course, the destination of the title. An injury-time goal from Cockburn City’s Julian Teles prevented Glory’s youngsters from wrapping it up last Saturday but John Gibson’s team remain heavy favourites.
And if they do complete the job then it will be just reward for years of commitment, according to Glory Football and Academy Director Jacob Burns.
“This is the result of the hard work of many people over a period of time and they are seeing the fruition of it this year. Not just the players, but the staff in the two-star academy,” Burns said.
“It’s just reward for their endeavour and hard work that we are now in a position to challenge with such a young group.
“The players we’ve used are under the age of 20 – at times this season we have had 17, 16 even 15 year old players playing in a man’s league. It’s a great test but they are matching them.
“I’ve seen the years where we’ve been struggling frantically at the foot of the table. But now we are earning the respect of the other clubs in the NPL competition.”
Glory will be without in-form striker Michael Domfeh and defender Ollie Annis, who are suspended, and coach Gibson said he has had to use around 40 players this season.
Not ideal but Burns says such a turnover does have its benefits.
“Using so many players, one of the biggest positives is that the players know whoever is in the starting 11 they are all ready to do the job. Which is what we demand of our first-team players.”
Saturday’s match will have consequences at both ends of the table, with Subiaco knowing that if they fail to at least match Forrestfield’s result against Stirling Lions then they are down.
“We are not underestimating Subiaco, they are playing to stay up,” Burns said.
“It’s come down to the wire for a lot of teams and it’s nice to be in that position come the last game of the season.”
Perth SC will be hoping Subiaco’s desperation will see them pull a rabbit out of the hat and beat Glory. If they do, then it’s likely the Azzurri will be celebrating a second title in three years. Certainly it’s hard to see them failing to beat Joondalup United, whose two-year stay in the NPL will officially end on Saturday.
Fixtures Saturday, August 25 (all 3pm)
Cockburn City v Armadale (Dalmatinac Park)
Floreat Athena v Sorrento (E&D Litis Stadium)
Balcatta v Inglewood United (Grindleford Reserve)
ECU Joondalup v Bayswater City (ECU Football Stadium)
Joondalup united v Perth SC (Percy Doyle Reserve)
Subiaco v Perth Glory (Rosalie Park)
Forrestfield United v Stirling Lions (Wildlife Safari Stadium)