FOUR matches on Saturday and two on Sunday make up Round 10 of the PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 competition.
Sydney Olympic is sitting on top, but they are under close pressure from APIA Leichhardt, who is level on points, and Blacktown City who are a point adrift but with a game in hand.
MATCH OF THE ROUND
APIA Leichhardt Tigers v Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 7.45pm Saturday, at Lambert Park
APIA are having a wonderful season so far, losing only once, and plundering 25 goals so far.
Of those, 13 are to the name of Blake Powell, who has scored in each of the nine matches so far and is in imperious form at the point of the APIA attack. Their depth has been tested by injuries in the past few weeks, but they have thus far responded to the challenge.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles pose a more considerable challenge than Parramatta FC did last week, and with two games in hand, Brian Brown’s side are lurking just outside the top places. They are well placed, and with Robbie Younis bang on form after a hat trick last weekend, the White Eagles will be confident they can do the business at Lambert Park.
APIA midfielder Adrian Ucchino moved from Bonnyrigg at the start of the season and has been in fine fettle in the centre of the park, and he will have a point to prove against his former club.
ROUND 10 PREVIEW
Manly United v South Coast Wolves, 7.30pm Saturday at Cromer Park
Manly United are the giant killers of this season’s competition, and after their 5-3 win against Sydney United 58 last weekend they will believe anything is possible.
The form of Brendan Cholakian is something to look out for, and his hat trick at Edensor Park proved he is a cut above the rest in this season’s competition. His partnership with Chris Payne has so far proved fruitful, but it is the midfield axis of Daniel Bragg and Bastien Beuchat that again have a part to play in wrestling control of the match.
South Coast Wolves went down to Rockdale City last weekend but have shown improvement in recent weeks, and their win against powerhouse side Bonnyrigg White Eagles wasn’t that long ago.
Their goalkeeper Tommy Manos returns to his former club as a fully fledged first grader, who has made a strong impression this season, keeping out Thomas Hamilton’s challenge and making the number one position his own.
Blacktown City v Blacktown Spartans, 7.30pm Saturday, at Lilys Football Centre
The Blacktown derby pits third placed Blacktown City against eighth placed Blacktown Spartans.
Blacktown City have been in strong form this season, losing only once in eight games and punishing understrength Sydney Olympic at home last weekend.
Christos Tomaras’ injury postpones what would have been a welcome headache for coach Mark Crittenden, namely how to fit Joe Gibbs, Travis Major, Patrick Antelmi, Danny Choi, and Tomaras, into the same starting eleven.
Spartans blew a 2-0 lead against Bonnyrigg White Eagles last weekend, shipping five, three of them to Robbie Younis.
They will need to tighten up at the back or Blacktown City’s much vaunted attack will be licking their lips at the prospect of more goals.
Marconi Stallions v Sydney United 58 FC, 7.30pm Saturday, at Marconi Stadium
What a difference a day makes.
Marconi Stallions, for so many weeks the competition’s whippings boys, bounced back under new coach Jeff Suzor, beating Sutherland Sharks last week.
Stallions’ former Blacktown City midfielder Ryan Peterson made his first grade debut and turned in a breakthrough performance, in what could be a sign of things to come both for Peterson and the Stallions.
It took two late goals to snatch the win, but they won’t care how they did it, as the ball finally gets rolling in 2015.
Their near neighbours Sydney United 58 make the short trip to Bossley Park, no doubt chastened by their loss to Manly United at home last weekend.
Conceding five is very unlike a Mark Rudan team, but they will have been hard at work to ensure it does not happen again.
Sydney Olympic v Sutherland Sharks, 3pm Sunday, at Belmore Sports Ground
Sydney Olympic rested a number of their big names against Blacktown City last week, and although their youngsters tried hard, their inexperience showed as they lost 4-1.
It leaves Olympic on top but only on goal difference, and one would expect the likes of Go Shirai, Dimitri Hatzimouratis, and Brayden Sorge, to return to the starting side this week.
Olympic will have to beware the wounded Sharks, who looked for all money to be on course for all three points against Marconi Stallions, only to concede in the 88th minute and in stoppage time to lose 2-1.
It has been a mixed bag for Sutherland this season who at times look the team of old, but at others look increasingly vulnerable. Defender Jacob Tratt is finding the net with alarming regularity, but when those goals dry up, the Sharks attackers will have to fill the void.
Rockdale City Suns v Parramatta FC, 2pm Sunday at Ilinden Sports Centre
Paul Reid has, so far, had the magic touch as player/assistant coach at Rockdale City Suns.
The first up win was followed by a narrow loss to Sydney Olympic in a midweek fixture, before a gritty 1-0 win against South Coast Wolves last weekend.
The Suns are beginning the long climb up the table and if Reid can continue to harness the talented squad, who knows where they will end up come season’s end.
Parramatta FC looked like they had snatched a point at home to APIA last weekend, after coming from 2-0 down to be level at 2-2.
But they switched off late, and Blake Powell scored twice to teach them a lesson. They do have two games in hand on those above them, but they are sitting rock bottom with one win and one draw in seven games.
Goals have been hard to come by, with only five netted so far, and that will need to change if they are going to start picking up significant points.
– by Matthew Lopez, PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 Editor