Just two points separate eighth place Adelaide United Youth and ninth ranked Para Hills Knights as the pair meet in a crucial clash on Saturday afternoon at VALO Football Centre.
The Young Reds, who have amassed 19 points, know just how important claiming the victory will be to move further clear of Para while also maintaining hope of a finals appearance.
United Youth recorded their first win in eight matches last week, courtesy of a comprehensive 3-0 triumph over West Adelaide.
Aladin Irabona, who opened the scoring from the penalty spot for Paul Pezos’ side, was proud of the display after feeling the team struggled to assert their authority early on.
“I think we started a bit slow, I think slower than what we usually start,” said Irabona, who has been the stand-in captain while Louis D’Arrigo has been on a break and now in pre-season with the senior side.
“They had more of the ball in the first-half, but once we got into the rhythm of the game we played really well and got the result in the end and the boys were really happy.”
That result extended the Young Reds’ unbeaten run to four matches, with Irabona delighted to convert a promising outing into three points after three straight draws.
“The form has been good, we’ve been playing well and it’s just that the results haven’t been going our way,” he said.
“But we stuck to it I guess and just kept working at training and it’s paid off.”
As alluded to, Irabona revealed he has embraced the role of being the interim skipper and has even taken the responsibility from the penalty spot, slotting two attempts in the last three games.
“I’m relishing the chance to be Captain, but obviously I know I’m not the natural Captain, but Pez (Paul Pezos) gave me the role and I’ve just embraced it,” he explained.
“I’m always prepared to do it to be honest (take a penalty) I don’t think it’s just a captain thing, we practice them sometimes at training and I think I just build composure from there.”
The 21-year-old is also anticipating a tough battle against the Knights, who beat Adelaide Blue Eagles 2-1 last round.
“I think they’re going to be challenging,” he said.
“Para Hills are going to be physical and look to out muscle us but I think if we just play our normal game, I think we’ll get the job done.”
Adelaide United Youth host Para Hills Knights in Round 16 of the National Premier League 2019 season on Saturday, 6 July at VALO Football Centre – The Parks. Kick-off is at 3.00pm. Reserves kick-off at 12.45pm.