The upcoming round of 32 clash in late August between Blacktown City and the Central Coast Mariners has all the making of a cup upset.
Central Coast have come back down to earth after an amazing A-League season last term with the coach and a raft of big-name players leaving the club in the past couple of months.
If ever there was a good time to face an A-League club in the FFA Cup, it’s this round with many A-League teams just starting pre-season training as well as a host of players transferring in and out.
The Mariners will be in for a fight against the club with the all-black strip and they know first hand how tricky the Demons are in the FFA Cup as they were bundled out by this very club in the FFA Cup in 2017.
City was formed in 1953 and has always been a very competitive club in NSW.
They have been premiers, champions and runners up in league and cup competitions several times in their near 70-year existence and have produced a lot of Australian international players.
The 2021 incarnation of Blacktown City is one that the Mariners need to be very careful of and playing anything less than a full-strength team could see the Mariners be knocked out and sent on their way back to Gosford with their tails between their legs.
City currently sit top of the NSW NPL, four points clear of their nearest rival with a superior goal difference.
They are the highest scoring team in the division with 36 goals from 17 games and they also possess the measliest defence with 17 goals conceded so far.
The Demons are coached by one of the legends of NSW football coaching, Mark Crittenden.
Crittenden recently hit the 300-game coaching milestone and has held a variety of different coaching roles within the club.
His time with the junior sides saw talent like Matt Ryan, Mustafa Amini, Mitchell Duke and Bernie Ibini come through the Demons’ door under his watchful eye and this mantra has continued on with a raft of young players in the fist team currently.
Crittenden is yet another NPL coach who has the talent to coach an A-League team.
When you talk about the best NPL teams in the country this season, player for player, Blacktown City is right up there in the equation.
Former Mariners player Travis Major is the second top scorer in the league with 12 goals in only 15 games. This is Major’s third stint with Blacktown City and he has always consistently scored goals and has overseas experience in Hong Kong.
Major has had help from a good mix of young and mature players in the Demons’ squad.
The diminutive Mario Shabow has chipped in with four goals and has looked like the player that three A-League clubs have already taken a chance on. At 23 years of age now, the child prodigy has fully matured and it would come as no surprise to see a fourth A-League club try and get the best of his talent.
At the other end of the pitch, Lachlan Campbell is a name that has been linked with A-League clubs but he is still playing in the NSW NPL. He is one of the best defenders in any NPL team in this country and has contributed with four goals.
Carlos De Oliveria, Jackson Bandiera, Suleyman Bangura and the ever-green Charles Mendy have all had their moments so far this season.
Blacktown’s ground, the Lily’s Football Centre, has artificial turf and this can be a very uncomfortable experience for professional players in Australia, as artificial turf pitches are still not that common.
If the Mariners underestimate the team in all black, they could be in for a torrid time. The Demons have enough quality to frighten most teams in the FFA Cup.