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NJL Match Report: Royals earn fourth-straight win in Yarraville

Essendon Royals delivered another reminder of their growing confidence and stability on Saturday as they secured a fourth-straight win and clean sheet in a row, defeating Yarraville Glory FC 2-0.

The Royals have now kept clean sheets in five of their last six games, with a solid defensive foundation proving the cornerstone of the team’s best run of the season.

Goals from Mario Piraino and Davey Van’t Schip secured victory on a day where the Royals really should have scored at least double what they finished with.

Some wayward shooting and brilliant goalkeeping from Andre Russo in the Yarraville goal kept the scoreline respectable for the Glory, whilst also ensuring the Royals had to hold their nerve late in the game.

Having made something of a habit of failing to capitalise on strong performances in the first half of the season, the Royals showed they have learned the lessons of months gone and demonstrated great discipline to keep the Glory at bay in the second half.

Essendon started the game strongly, with Graham Kelly testing the keeper early in the third minute, putting his shot from a Markovski cut-back on target after just three minutes.

Van’t Schip had his first chance of the game in the 22nd minute, forcing a good save after some tricky footwork from Nobuyuki Usui down the left flank.

The Glory’s best chance of the game came with the scores still locked at 0-0. In the 26th minute, a defensive deflection fell kindly for the Glory, but the onrushing striker could not convert the one-on-one opportunity, with Royals keeper German Schacht doing enough to tighten the angle and force the shooter wide.

Jake Montagnese hit the crossbar with a wayward cross just after the half-hour mark, before Russo made arguably his best save of the day to deny Ryan McEvoy from point-blank range.

He couldn’t stop the Royals from the resulting corner, however as a wicked corner wreaked havoc in the box and opened up an opportunity for Piraino to bundle the ball over the line for his second goal in two games.

The Royals took a 1-0 lead into the break and continued to dominate proceedings in the second half.

Van’t Schip supplied the most inventive pass of the day, cheating the ball in behind for Kelly to rush onto in the 51st minute. Kelly’s shot was blocked as he rushed in on goal.

Van’t Schip had another chance on the hour mark but saw his effort blocked, before Matteo Ballan made a crucial defensive intervention at the other end to ensure the Royals maintained the lead.

McEvoy and Van’t Schip were both denied by Russo once again in the 66th minute as the keeper pulled off a ridiculous double save, before Van’t Schip hit the post in the 68th minute with a lovely strike.

Van’t Schip had a free header in the 80th minute from a lovely ball delivered by the returning Mo Abbas, but he couldn’t steer it home.

The Playing Assistant Coach did eventually get his goal in stoppage time, applying the finishing touches to more lovely work down the left flank from Usui.

The win was no less than the Royals deserved from a truly great team performance.

Of particular note was the performance of Zenawi Bugali, who had the unenviable task of replacing the in-form Anthony Ramzy in midfield.

Bugali rose to the occasion in his first start for the Royals covering an incredible amount of ground in midfield and shielding the back four as if he was protecting the tomb of the Egyptian Pharoah Tutankhamun.

The win moves the Royals into second position on the table, with a game in hand on third-placed Sydenham Park.

In the earlier kick-off, the Royals Reserves ran out 2-1 winners.

First-half goals from Fabian Fotopoulos and Joseph Guerrera sealed the win as the Royals maintained top spot in the Reserves division.