Fresh from winning the PS4 NPL 1 NSW Men’s Grand Final, Blacktown City FC will prove stern opposition for Sydney FC in the Westfield FFA Cup Quarter Finals at Sydney United Sport Centre on Wednesday week.
Mark Crittenden’s outfit boast a wealth of Hyundai A-League experience and a number of faces familiar to the Sky Blues faithful.
Sydney FC stalwart Rhyan Grant, at the Sky Blues since 2008, is more than familiar with the bulk of Blacktown’s playing squad and he offers his insight into those lining up against him.
Mitchell Mallia: The Blacktown City front man spent three years at the Sky Blues between 2011 and 2014, making 17 appearances and scoring one goal. Mallia impressed in the Sky Blues youth league squad before earning a senior call up under Head Coach Vitezslav Lavicka in December 2011, making his debut against the Newcastle Jets. He scored his first and only Hyundai A-League goal against Adelaide United in 2012 before moving to Blacktown City at the conclusion of his contract with Sydney FC in 2014.
“Mitch was always dangerous,” Grant said.
“He’s very quick and got a lot of speed and he uses that well to his advantage. He’s got a great left foot and an eye for goal so we’ll have to make sure we’re on our game to shut him down.”
Zach Cairncross: A Foxtel National Youth League winner with the Sky Blues in the inaugural 2008/09 season, Cairncross made his Hyundai A-League debut for Sydney FC against Wellington Phoenix in 2009. The 26 year old central defender moved to Blacktown City in 2010 after a year at Sydney FC, and again moved to Blacktown in 2015 following a season at the Central Coast Mariners.
“Zach and I started in the youth team together in the very first year,” Grant said.
“We won the youth league that year and were pretty successful and had a good team that went on to play A-League.
“I played with him for a couple of years, he’s a big boy, a solid defender and been doing really well at Blacktown. He’s always a strength for them and we’ll have to make sure we’re ready for his physical presence.”
Joey Gibbs: Another inaugural Foxtel National Youth League winner in 2008/09, Gibbs made his Hyundai A-League debut for the Sky Blues in the 2010 Grand Final against Melbourne Victory, picking up a winners medal. Gibbs had further Hyundai A-League stints at Western Sydney Wanderers and Newcastle Jets before moving to Blacktown City in 2015 where he finished fourth on Blacktown’s scoring charts for the 2016 season.
“Gibbsy made his debut in the Grand Final which is pretty freakish. He’s a really good player and got a good eye for goal,” Grant said.
“He’s scored some spectacular goals over the years. I think he’s very underrated and with what little game time he’s played in the A-League he’s shown what a great player he is. He’s another we’ll have to be on our toes for.”
– A young Brandon O’Neill takes on Joey Gibbs. Photo by: Getty Images.
In total, five of Blacktown’s players have featured in the Hyundai A-League, while others such as Roberto Speranza, Tristan Prendergast and Patrick Antelmi have either trialled of played in the Foxtel National Youth League for Hyundai A-League clubs.
“I think their squad is very good,” Grant said.
“If you look at their players I think the majority have had a taste of the A-League or been in or around it.
“I’ve played with a few of their players. I went to school with Matt Lewis, he’s played at the Mariners and has a great left foot.
“They’ve got a lot of depth and I think their team overall is very good and will push us all the way.”
Sydney FC face Blacktown City FC in the Westfield FFA Cup Quarter Final on Wednesday 21 September at Sydney United Sports Centre, Edensor Park (kick off 7:30pm). Catch the match live on Fox Sports or follow @SydneyFC on Twitter for updates.
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