NPL Men's NNSW Finals Week Three Preview: Magic and Azzurri to battle it out for the chance to join the Jaffas on grand final day

Preliminary Final 
Broadmeadow Magic FC v Charlestown Azzurri FC  
Magic Park, Sunday 2:30pm 

A grand final spot alongside the Lambton Jaffas is on the line when Broadmeadow Magic host Charlestown Azzurri in this Sunday’s preliminary final clash at Magic Park. 

The highly anticipated fixture sees the two sides that were the Jaffas’ greatest rivals for the premiership go head-to-head for the chance to join Lambton in the biggest game of the season when the championship is on the line at Jack McLaughlan Oval on Saturday 9 September. 

Magic finished the season ranked second on 45 competition points, just one behind the top-ranked Jaffas and one ahead of third-placed Azzurri.  

The Broadmeadow men split the points at three apiece with Charlestown during the regular season before they met again in week one of the finals series when Magic prevailed 4-2.  

Azzurri won 1-0 in the minor semi-final last Sunday after Broadmeadow had gone down 4-2 against Jaffas in the major semi-final on Saturday, which saw them book in a fourth clash against one another this Sunday. 

Charlestown’s coach James Pascoe was full of praise for Broadmeadow and is well aware that his side are going to have their hands full in the preliminary final, but is also confident they have what it takes to get the job done. 

“It’ll be another tightish affair,” Pascoe predicted. 

“They are a very good young side, and realistically, half of that Magic team really should be the Jets Youth team. I think they would be if that organisation was functioning well, and we’d be seeing some of those boys really pushing for A-League contracts. 

“We’ve had three games against Broadmeadow this year. We came up trumps in the first one but they’ve got us in the last two. That first semi-final, the only thing that really separated us was a world-class goal from young (James) Cresnar. The fourth goal, even though it was given, the boy was standing off the field when the ball was played to him. We did quite well to get back to 3-2 with 10 men. You take that world-class goal out, we’re still in it. 

“I think this one will go much the same way in that they’ll have the bulk of possession and we’ll play on the counter. There’s an art to that as well, and that’s sometimes hard to deal with for opposition.” 

Azzurri’s fighting spirit and resilient character were on display last weekend during the side’s 1-0 win over Weston, and they will need to show the same grit and determination again this Sunday as an injury-plagued back-end of the season for them continues. 

Pascoe’s side will be without attacking weapon Miguel Fernandez after he suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Bears, while gun midfielder Jacob Melling copped an elbow injury during that game that forced him to leave the field, and his availability for Sunday’s match will not be known until that morning. Jethro Elkington will still be out suspended for the boys in blue. 

“We’re bare bones, but we’ll try to find a way to be competitive,” Pascoe said. 

“It will be a big ask with some bodies out but, that’s for sure.” 

Broadmeadow have two injury concerns of their own, with Keanu Moore and Jeremy Wilson in doubt. Moore was forced off in the second half against Lambton with a hamstring injury and Wilson is still battling an ankle injury that has plagued him for several weeks. 

Broadmeadow are expecting another physical and tough encounter against Azzurri on Sunday. 

“It’s going to be a physical game I’d say, especially with the season being on the line,” Magic coach John Bennis said. 

“Charlestown have some mobile players up front, and they are a massive threat on set pieces. Those are two big strengths for them and we’ll have to be ready for that.” 

Magic are coming into the contest off their first league loss since July 2 after going down against the Jaffas in a six-goal classic on Saturday.  

Bennis thought that three of the goals were avoidable, which has left him pondering who will line up with the gloves on Sunday. Broadmeadow swapped goalkeepers at half-time as Jack Pandel replaced Cesar Serpa between the sticks, a change that Bennis confirmed was made given the way the Jaffas’ first three goals were scored. 

Pandel was put under pressure instantly in the second stanza and there was nothing he could do about Reece Papas’ bullet free kick in the 48th minute, nor a powerful Ben Hay strike from just outside the 18-yard box 15 seconds into the half that cannoned back out off the left post.  

But Pandel was otherwise quite solid, and Bennis declared that he would have a tough decision to make for Sunday’s game regarding who would start the match wearing the gloves. 

“The free kick in the second half was a fantastic strike and I don’t think many keepers get to that,” Bennis said. 

“But the other three were probably avoidable and something that we need to be better at. 

“A decision will be made later in the week, but it’s up in the air for me. In big games we need everyone to stand up, and I’ll be putting in there someone I feel will do the job.”