Blacktown City vs Rockdale City Suns, Saturday 11am at John Crehan Park
Fourth placed Blacktown City take on fifth place Rockdale City Suns in the Elimination Final on Saturday morning.
John Crehan Park will be the venue for the match in which Blacktown City are favourites, having returned to form by beating a poor Bonnyrigg White Eagles outfit 4-2 last weekend.
Mark Strachan?s side was unstoppable early in the season and looked odds on to run away with the Premiership, but they found their match in Sutherland Sharks, who ended up winning the Premiership by five points.
Blacktown City ended up in fourth position and only an upset victory by Sydney United 58 over APIA Leichhardt Tigers in the final few rounds ensured that they headed into the final round safely in the top five.
Their loss of form in the middle of the season was quite alarming, but they have shown flashes of their brilliant best since and if they can harness the ability and talent that made them so formidable earlier in the season, they will certainly be confident of surviving this match.
Rockdale City Suns had a steady regular season, maintaining a presence in and around the top five throughout the entire 22 rounds of football.
Under the guidance of their coach Justin Bucciarelli, they have forged a reputation as being very difficult to beat. They headed into last weekend?s match against Parramatta Eagles needing a point to hold on to fifth ahead of the fast finishing Eagles.
Their hopes appeared dashed when Wandi Jajaw put Parramatta 2-1 up with three minutes remaining, but a second goal of the match from half-time substitute James Villazon straight from the resulting kick off grabbed Rockdale City a 2-2 draw and ensured that they remained in fifth place.
Blacktown City will rely on their midfielder talisman and captain Harry Brown to dictate the tempo of the match, allowing their attackers to flourish. In Luke Turnbull, they have the outstanding goalkeeper in the competition.
Rockdale City?s strength lies in their resilience and defensive strength, where their captain Lachlan O?Connor has been outstanding. Alan Kovacevic has been in good form also, and scored for the first grade side against Parramatta Eagles last weekend.
For one side, they will progress to the second week of the semi finals where they will face the loser of the Qualifiying Final between Manly United and Blacktown Spartans. For the other, their season will be over and their dreams dashed.
Manly United vs Blacktown Spartans, Sunday 1.30pm at Belmore Sports Ground
Second placed finishers Manly United take on third placed finishers Blacktown Spartans at Belmore Sports Ground on Sunday afternoon, for the chance to play Sutherland Sharks in a Grand Final qualifier in the second week of the finals.
Manly United had a terrific middle part of the season, in which they soared up the table after a slow start.
They took advantage of the loss of form of Sutherland Sharks and Blacktown City to reel in the deficit they had to the top of the table and they finished five points adrift of Sutherland at the end of the season.
They cruised to a 3-1 win over Sydney Olympic last weekend and will play at the same ground again this weekend.
Blacktown Spartans finished two points adrift of Manly United in what was a hugely successful debut season in the NSW Premier League. In Hoysar Cakal they had the Golden Boot winner for 2012, his 15 goals setting him clear of a number of players on 12 goals, including Manly United?s Michael McGinley.
Mark Zecchin?s well drilled side are more than capable of taking the game to United and they warmed up for the finals series with a solid 2-0 win against APIA Leichhardt Tigers at Lambert Park.
It will be difficult to separate the two sides but by virtue of their sustained excellence throughout the regular season, they will be granted another opportunity should they not be victorious in this match.
-By Matthew Connellan