Who wants to play finals football?
That’s the big question with three rounds to play in the PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 competition.
Two clubs at the forefront of the battle for post-season play will meet head-to-head at Lambert Park when Sydney Olympic FC welcome the in-form Blacktown Spartans FC.
The Spartans had their match against Parramatta FC washed out last week and will be chomping at the bit to keep the good form going with five wins in a row.
The 15-point haul from the last five games has Blacktown flying and a similar result this weekend against Grant Lee’s men could see the Spartans enter the top five.
Elsewhere, the race for the premiership is reaching a thrilling conclusion as three teams compete for the title.
Blacktown City FC remain in the driver’s seat with a three-point lead and superior goal difference over second-place APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC, while the red-hot Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC aren’t far behind, just one point off the Tigers.
MATCH OF THE ROUND
Sydney Olympic FC v Blacktown Spartans FC, 4:15pm Sunday at Lambert Park
Sydney Olympic remain in control of its final destiny, but it will need to put its shaky form behind it if it is to be sure of finals football as they take on the Blacktown Spartans at Lambert Park.
After a 2-0 win over bottom-placed Marconi Stallions last weekend, Olympic sits in fourth place, five points ahead of Sydney United 58 FC and Sunday’s opponent Blacktown Spartans FC.
The Spartans have a game in hand after last weekend’s match against Parramatta FC was washed out, meaning a win on Sunday would go a long way to pushing the competition’s form side into finals contention.
Shu Sasaki has been banging the goals and recently notched his 10th goal of the season from his 17 appearances.
Josh Tanner has been every bit as handy, notching three goals in his last two appearances.
Olympic, on the other hand, have been up and down, with two wins and three losses from its last five.
Harris Gaitzatzis has been a reliable route to goal and scored another from the penalty spot last week, and he will hope to find the net again and help his side to a crucial three points at home on Sunday.
Sutherland Sharks FC v Manly United FC, 7.30 pm Saturday at Seymour Shaw
Finals football is not looking too likely for Sutherland Sharks, but that could change with a win against Manly United on Saturday night.
The Sharks have a game in hand on the likes of Sydney United 58 FC and Sydney Olympic after their derby against Rockdale City Suns was washed out last weekend, but surely nothing but a win will suffice on Saturday night.
A late Jordan Figon goal sealed a remarkable comeback against APIA Leichhardt two weeks ago.
The Sharks have made a bad habit of conceding goals early before starting to really hit their best in matches, and it’s a habit that could cost them finals.
Manly, on the other hand, was a lot better than the 2-1 loss might suggest against Blacktown City FC last week.
Scoring goals certainly hasn’t been a problem for United with 10 in its last three games and Brendan Cholakian will be hoping to add even more to his tally of 10 on Saturday night for the visiting side, who sit in ninth place on the ladder with 21 points.
Blacktown City FC v Marconi Stallions FC, 3pm Sunday at Lilys Football Centre
The equation is pretty simple for Blacktown City FC with three games remaining.
Keep winning, and the premiership belongs to Mark Crittenden and his boys.
On paper, there is no way that City should even be entertaining losing on Sunday when Marconi Stallions visit.
The Stallions sit rock bottom on the league table and have not tasted victory since May 9, despite some admirable performances.
A miserly defensive record – the Stallions concede on average over two goals a game – might become even worse if Danny Choi can continue the form that saw him score twice in City’s 2-1 win over Manly United last week.
Travis Major and Mitchell Mallia are certainly due a couple of goals after drawing blanks in recent weeks, too.
Sydney United 58 FC v Rockdale City Suns FC, 3pm Sunday at Sydney United Sports Centre
Could Sydney United 58 FC be the best PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 side to miss out on finals football yet?
It just could be, particularly if it can’t turn an undoubtedly talented side into a consistently winning outfit.
It would seem a weird thing to say about a side that has already picked up silverware this season in the Waratah Cup and remains in the Westfield FFA Cup, but anything less than finals for Mark Rudan’s side would surely be a bit of an underachievement.
Panni Nikas, Justin Pasfield and Chris Triantis are just three names that stand out on the United team sheet, but they will need to turn in a good performance event at home against Rockdale City Suns, who will be looking to pile on the misery on Sunday. A lot has been made by the loss of key defensive midfielder Nick Stavroulakis early through the season which has seen the Reds struggle in that department – all things point to the team needing a big lift in what is a big match for the club on Sunday.
The Suns are undefeated in four before last week’s clash with Sutherland Sharks was called off and they have the tools to pose a considerable threat to United.
Dylan Macallister might not have his first goal for the Suns yet, but he’s proven a handful for all his opponents thus far, and will be looking to link up with fellow guns Alec Urosevski and Marko Jesic to bring down United on the road.
South Coast Wolves FC v APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC, 3pm Sunday at WIN Stadium
South Coast Wolves FC will need to ensure WIN Stadium remains a fortress on Sunday to pick up an unlikely three points against second-placed APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC.
The Tigers got back to winning ways with a strong performance over Sydney United 58 FC, which will have been a relief particularly after the loss of star striker Blake Powell to A-League side Wellington Phoenix.
Nothing but a win will do for the Tigers this week, while South Coast Wolves will be looking redeem a lost opportunity against Bonnyrigg White Eagles last weekend.
The Wolves played well and should have taken a lead before half time before going down 3-1.
Parramatta FC v Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC, 5pm Sunday at Melita Stadium
On current form, there will only be one winner from this battle of the Eagles, and it is not likely to be Parramatta FC.
The Bonnyrigg White Eagles are arguably the best side in the competition at the moment, stringing together a number of strong performances to go winning four of the last five, including a huge derby win against Sydney United 58 FC and a solid 3-1 win last week against South Coast Wolves.
The White Eagles have been a one-stop shop for stunning goals over the last month too, with David Vrankovic and Aaron Peterson scoring absolute scorchers in recent weeks.
Parramatta has not had too much trouble finding the back of the net itself, but not even the tremendous keeping of Luke Turnbull has been able to keep the goals from flowing at the other end.
Captain Patrick Gatt has been a huge loss for the Eagles in the heart of defence and Franco Consentino will hope with a week off, after the match against Blacktown Spartans last week was washed out, he will be able to recall his captain as the club searches for crucial club championship points to avoid relegation.
– By Matthew Galea, PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 Editor