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Southern & Ettalong v Terrigal

Fierce competitors with a heated history of intense matchups will meet for the first time in 2024 as in-form Southern & Ettalong hosts unbeaten Terrigal United at James Browne Oval this Sunday for the MPL Match of the Round.

Since their loss to Berkeley Vale (4-1) and a draw against Woongarrah (3-3) in their opening two fixtures, Southern & Ettalong have won three straight fixtures to put them inside the top four with 10 points to their name.

Although the Lions have conceded more goals (10) than anyone else sitting in the top six on the ladder, Matt Page’s men boast the best attacking record in the league which has been evident in their last three results.

Southern have claimed wins over Avoca (3-0), Budgewoi (5-2), and Woy Woy (5-1), scoring an incredible 13 goals to take their tally for the season to 17 which is 3 goals more than any other team after the opening 5 rounds played.

The 2023 co-recipient of the MPL Player of the Year award, Jacob Lepre, has already registered 7 goals to his name as he currently leads the Golden Boot standings. However, the Lion’s attack will have their work cut out for them as they face the second-best defensive side in the competition this Sunday.

“I’ve tried to stress to my guys that if we want to be successful long term, it is important that we are able to score goals from multiple positions, and from different game scenarios,” spoke Page.

“Even though more than half our goals have come from Jacob Lepre and Jack Elwood, the fact that we’ve had eight different goal scorers already in the league shows me that the lads have started to take this message on board.”

“The mixture of our goals coming from set pieces and open play from different areas has been pleasing, but we must continue to do this throughout the year.”

Looking back on past meetings and what makes this fixture stand out compared to others, Page had nothing but high praise for the opposition coach and the club.

“These ties against Terrigal the last few years have always been tough encounters. They have been a very consistent club over that time, in all MPL grades, and have been First Grade premiers two times in the last three years. Alongside Killarney Vale, they have been a club that we have been looking to chase down.”

“Despite them losing some of their troops in the off-season to representative outfits, with their strong junior base, and depth of squad, they will no doubt be a formidable opponent again this year and have proved so in how they’ve started the season.”

“Pearce knows what the club is all about and what they’ve done in the past to be successful, so it won’t be a case of reinventing the wheel for him, and he seems to have taken to his new role as player-coach like he was made for it. Knowing how tough it is to manage this, I wish him all the best with it, and I look forward to the tactical battle this Sunday.”

Last year Southern were able to beat Terrigal home and away in their two meetings during the winter season and will be hoping they have a similar success this Sunday as they look to hand Terrigal their inaugural loss of the year.

Page also vocalised what he is expecting from Terrigal come Sunday. “I anticipate a really tough game against the O’lads. They have started the season well and even though it’s early days, these matches against the teams up the top can be crucial in where you sit leading into the final part of the year.”

“I haven’t seen much of them so far, but from what I’ve heard, they are a quick, fit, talented team, and resolute in defence. With Max Vegter and Dean Heffernan as their CB pairing, this doesn’t surprise me at all, and we will have to be at our very best come this Sunday if we want to take maximum points.”

“With our season still being at a somewhat early stage, the main thing for us to focus on to get all three points, is us. We are still building our combinations and trying to improve in all parts of the game as a unit.”

“One thing I know is that it will take another ninety-minute performance from us if we are to have any joy. The task will be difficult, but we look forward to the challenge.”

Although Terrigal were unable to defeat Southern in their two meetings last year, the O’lads came up clutch when it mattered the most as they ended Southern’s hopes of a First-Grade Grand Final, defeating them 4-1 in the Preliminary Final to end their season for the second straight year.  

Currently sitting in second place and boasting a one-point lead over Southern on the ladder, a win this weekend will see Terrigal go four points clear of their opposition and although it’s only early in the season, this could play a major part in the outcome of the top four come the end of the year.

With multiple players leaving and Ryan Pearce taking over as head coach whilst also continuing his role on the team as a player, there was a lot of unknowns heading into this year for Terrigal.

Despite these changes, Terrigal remain just one of two teams that are unbeaten after five fixtures with a large part of their success so far this season coming down to their exceptional backline.

Max Vegter, who was given the armband for the year ahead, has been an instrumental part of this squad having already receiving multiple man-of-the-match honours this season. Terrigal were also able to attract former Socceroo Dean Heffernan which has added some vital experience and composure to the young squad.

Coming off their second clean sheet of the year, this defensive duo will need to be at their very best again this weekend as they prepare to defuse the attacking prowess the opposition possesses.

Expect another tight and gruelling contest between these two title contenders come kick-off on Sunday at James Browne Oval

Match Official – Trent Dickeson

All Round 8 Fixtures –