ONE month down and the ladder is starting to take shape, but for those who have been sluggish out of the blocks, there is plenty of time to turn things around.
Blacktown Football Park is the scene for round five’s Match of the Round between Blacktown Spartans and South Coast Wolves.
MATCH OF THE ROUND
Blacktown Spartans v South Coast Wolves, 7.30pm SATURDAY at Blacktown Football Park
Blacktown Spartans had an outstanding season last year, and their late capitulation shouldn’t overshadow what was a breakthrough year in the top division.
Shu Sasaki has been a wonderful addition to Ben De Haan’s squad and his invention and trickery is the centrepiece of their play, while there will always be a certain assurance as long as Carlos Saliadarre is between the sticks.
South Coast looked in dire straits last season, but when the likeable Richard Lloyd was replaced by Nahuel Arrate, the Wollongong based side began to climb the table in a remarkable second half of the season.
Arratte had the Wolves singing, but things have been tougher this year and they are yet to register a win. They and Rockdale City Suns are the only sides waiting to chalk up a mark in the W column.
Round 5 Preview
Marconi Stallions v Manly United, 7.30pm SATURDAY at Marconi Stadium
Marconi Stallions will bounce into their home match on a high after their win at Rockdale last weekend.
It has been a tough start to the year for Paul Carter’s side, registering only one victory to go with three losses. They have been worryingly fragile at the back and have conceded 11 goals in only four games and the loss of club legend James Chronopoulos has been keenly felt, although his replacement, Sam Nastic, has done a good job between the sticks.
Manly meanwhile picked up their first win of the season against Blacktown Spartans last week and it was well deserved, especially given how they played Rockdale off the park the week before, only to earn a share of the points.
Sutherland Sharks v Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 7.30pm SATURDAY at Seymour Shaw Park
Neither Sutherland nor Bonnyrigg saw action last weekend after their matches against Parramatta and Blacktown City respectively, both washed out.
There can be no such problems at Seymour Shaw, and the forecast indicates that irrespective of the synthetic surface, this match will 100 per cent go ahead, leaving the two sides to blow away the cobwebs after a fortnight without competitive action.
Sutherland’s start has been a mixed bag, but the form of Sean O’Connell in midfield has been a real bright note.
Bonnyrigg meanwhile are undefeated after two wins and a draw. It looked for all money as if that run would come to an end against Sydney Olympic two weeks ago, but at 2-0 down, the White Eagles drew on all their experience.
They show the resolve and quality that has marked them out as one of the competition’s finest in recent seasons, and came back to salvage a 2-2 draw, from the jaws of defeat.
Blacktown City v APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 3pm SUNDAY at Lilys Football Centre
Blacktown City are another team who had last weekend off after their blockbuster clash with Bonnyrigg White Eagles fell victim to Sydney’s wild weather on Easter Saturday.
Mark Crittenden’s side should be fresh as daisies and with three wins from three, including an opening round victory against Sydney United 58 FC. Their visitors, APIA, are top of the table after a similarly impressive start to the season, and one gets the impression this could be the truest test so far for both sides.
Blacktown City’s attack, particularly the pacy Mitchell Mallia, will feel confident they can cause problems for APIA’s defence, which seven goals in four games.
The Tigers may well welcome back club captain Michael West, although if Brett Studman is fit it will cause a selection headache for coach Billy McColl, especially after Tyson Rhodes’ assured performance as a substitute last weekend against Sydney Olympic.
Franco Parisi is in the form of his life and revelling in the attacking midfield role behind Blake Powell, and the duo have the quality to win any game.
Sydney Olympic v Rockdale City Suns, 3pm SUNDAY at Belmore Sports Ground
Sydney Olympic remain undefeated after their thrilling 2-2 draw at Lambert Park against APIA Leichhardt Tigers last weekend.
Were it not for an outstanding performance by APIA keeper Ryan Norval, Olympic could have taken all three points. Norval was in a running battle with Dimitri Hatzimouratis, who did find himself on the score sheet, but probably should have had two more.
The Olympic number 9 is finding the back of the net regularly, and the supply line from Taiga Soeda, Go Shirai and the marauding right back Brayden Sorge, is making life easy for Hatzimouratis.
There are some big names struggling to get into this side, including club captain Petar Markovic and strikers Harris and Michael Gaitatzis, so the depth is certainly there for Grant Lee.
Rockdale City Suns have had a shocking start to the season. They are yet to win and were disappointing in going down to Marconi Stallions last weekend, despite desperately chasing the game in the final quarter of an hour.
This is no match in which to try and find the first win of the season, but Rockdale City need to find something to kick start their season.
Sydney United 58 FC v Parramatta FC, 3pm SUNDAY at Sydney United Sports Centre
United are a class act and they showed as much last weekend, as they came from 1-0 down to record a 5-1 win over South Coast Wolves.
With Nick Stavroulakis missing from midfield, United threw Chris Triantis into the midfield, and he should again play an important role.
Panny Nikas will be all the better for his half an hour off the bench, and in scoring twice he showed that time out has done nothing to dull his predatory instincts. He may not be ready to start just yet, for Mark Rudan will not want to risk his prized asset with such a long way to go this season.
Regardless of who starts for United, Parramatta have their work cut out for them.
They pushed Blacktown City all the way two weeks ago but still lost when Patrick Antelmi scored twice late on at Lilys Football Centre, but Franco Cosentino will have draw confidence from the performance.
He and his players will have to believe they can take on any team in the division and that includes United, who will certainly be in the mix when the whips are cracking later in the year.
– by Matthew Lopez, PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 Editor