LADDER leaders Blacktown City travel to fourth placed Sydney United 58 in a mouth watering Match of the Round this weekend.
The top six is threatening to break away from the bottom six, so for those in the bottom half who still harbour finals ambitions, an important few weeks is ahead.
MATCH OF THE ROUND
Sydney United 58 FC v Blacktown City, 3pm Sunday, at Sydney United Sports Centre
The Reds’ impressive win last weekend over Sydney Olympic made the competition sit up and take notice.
It moved Mark Rudan’s side five points clear of Bonnyrigg White Eagles, who have a game in hand on their great rivals, and the form and fitness of Panni Nikas has turned the Reds into a formidable force.
Chris Triantis too, is fit and firing and the arrival of Richard Cardozo has added a surety in front of goal that was missing in the early part of the season.
Blacktown City won’t be afraid to take on United 58 though, and with only five points dropped this season, they are sitting on top on merit.
They are one point ahead of APIA Leichhardt, but have a game in hand, and a win here would be a significant show of strength.
They are superbly marshalled at the back by Zac Cairncross and have the best defence in the league, only conceding 12 goals so far.
It all makes for one big match up on Sunday afternoon.
ROUND 12 REVIEW
Blacktown Spartans v Sutherland Sharks, 7.30pm Saturday, at Blacktown Football Park
Blacktown Spartans need to recover quickly after being played off the park by APIA Leichhardt last weekend.
They had a bright 25 minutes in the first half of the game and they will need to harness that positivity this weekend against Sutherland, who are a capable, if inconsistent, side this season.
Sutherland head the second half of the season, three points behind Manly United, but having played a game extra.
The Sharks believe they are capable of finals football, but to make it they will need to string together a strong run of form from now.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles v Manly United, 7.30pm Saturday, at Bonnyrigg Sports Centre
Fifth placed Bonnyrigg host sixth placed Manly United on Saturday night.
Manly have earned a reputation as giant killers this season and are stoked to be sitting up in sixth place after 10 games.
There are some illustrious names below them,with good reason.
Bonnyrigg boast as formidable a line up as any in the division and one feels they are not far away from stringing together a big run.
They are still one of the competition’s best and their position on the ladder doesn’t reflect how dangerous a side they are.
Parramatta FC v Marconi Stallions, 3pm Sunday, at Melita Stadium
Second last hosts last on Sunday afternoon in Sefton.
Neither side have had much to cheer about this season, but for Parramatta the struggle was always going to be very real after their promotion from Men’s 2 last season.
For Marconi however it has been a sad decline for the side that won the Championship in 2012.
Two wins and nine losses, with only eight goals scored and 31 conceded makes for grim reading, particularly for a club with as decorated a history as the Stallions.
Jeff Suzor has taken the reigns from Paul Carter, but the job is a mammoth one and if they don’t take three points in this one, you would have to wonder from where their next win will come.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers v Rockdale City Suns, 4.30pm Sunday, at Lambert Park
APIA Leichhardt Tigers sit second on the ladder after a barnstorming start to the season that has seen them plunder 30 goals in 11 games.
Blake Powell has 15 of those, after adding two to his tally last weekend. Indeed, the nil-all draw with Bonnyrigg the week previous is the only game in which he hasn’t found the back of the net.
Rockdale City Suns have had their inevitable bounce after Branko Culina’s departure as head coach however, and recently signed George Codrea to play in midfield.
Marko Jesic will cause a problem for APIA’s defence, while Ryan Norval could play in goal against his former club if he recovers from a hamstring injury.
South Coast Wolves v Sydney Olympic, 5pm Sunday, at WIN Stadium
Wolves’ late winner against Marconi Stallions last week lifted them above the Stallions and Parramatta, to 10th on the ladder ahead of this week’s match against Sydney Olympic.
Grant Lee’s Olympic have dropped to third after their loss at Sydney United 58 last weekend, but the battle at the top of the table is a tight four way tussle between those two, APIA, and Blacktown City.
Wolves will take plenty of heart from their upset win against Bonnyrigg in Wollongong a few weeks ago, and many coaches and players will say it is one of the most difficult places to travel.
Olympic will be keen to bounce back however, and a strong performance here would suggest their loss last weekend was only a minor aberration.
– by Matthew Lopez, PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 Editor