With three rounds to go and midweek catch-up fixtures to play, there is no shortage of drama to be resolved in PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 over the coming month.
The only question is where do you start?
The race for finals football has embroiled no fewer than seven teams, while the relegation slog fest sees Parramatta FC, Marconi Stallions FC and Rockdale City Suns in a three-way face-off.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC welcome Blacktown Spartans after the travelling side suffered a cruel loss against Sydney Olympic FC last week despite taking a 2-0 lead, blowing a huge chance to move in on fifth place in the process.
MATCH OF THE ROUND
Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC v Blacktown Spartans FC, 7.30 pm Saturday at Bonnyrigg Sports Centre
Last week’s shock loss to Parramatta FC will have undoubtedly rocked Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC, stopping the White Eagles’ premiership charge in its tracks in the process.
But still, the White Eagles remain on course for finals football.
The same cannot be said for the Blacktown Spartans FC outfit Bonnyrigg will welcome on Saturday night.
The Spartans let a huge opportunity to enter the to five slip on Sunday when it coughed up a 2-0 lead against Sydney Olympic FC to lose 3-2, and while the result was not as spectacular as Bonnyrigg’s capitulation at Melita Stadium it will undoubtedly have stung Ben De Haan’s men.
Despite that, De Haan’s men remain in control of its own destiny and a win on Saturday night would get the Spartans back on track.
The Spartans will have to be wary of the threat of Aaron Peterson, who bagged a brace last week, as well as Robert Younis who has been in fine form in front of goal all season.
ROUND 20 PREVIEW
Manly United FC v Sydney United 58 FC, 7.30 pm Saturday at Cromer Park
Manly United FC could ensure this seasons enthralling race for finals football continues to be as unpredictable as ever with a home win on Saturday night.
Manly will host a Sydney United 58 FC desperate to get back to winning ways after its fourth loss in five games following a 1-0 loss to fellow FFA Cup finalists Rockdale City Suns last weekend.
Mark Rudan’s squad has been stretched thin with FFA Cup, Waratah Cup and league duties this season, but he will have to find a way of rejuvenating a tired list if he is to ensure his side is playing post-season football this year.
Manly United – which has lost just once in its last five games – has no such worries and won’t need to consider resting key players such as Brendan Cholakian and Chris Payne, who proved match winner last week against Sutherland Sharks.
A win would see Manly overtake Sydney United 58, with just one point separating the sides before kick-off.
Whether or not that would be enough to move Manly into the top five would depend on other results.
Marconi Stallions FC v Sutherland Sharks FC, 7.30 pm Saturday at Marconi Stadium
It was a case of another good performance for little reward for Marconi Stallions last week at Lily’s Football Centre, but the Stallions need to start getting points on the board.
Jeff Suzor’s men put in an admirable display against premiers-elect Blacktown City last week, but an unlikely win for Parramatta FC against Bonnyrigg means the relegation battle is well and truly on in the Club Championship table.
Last week’s results mean there is just six points separating the Stallions from the Eagles.
A win on Saturday against a Sutherland Sharks FC outfit running hot and cold would be a massive step towards survival.
Steve O’Connor’s Sharks won’t be interested in playing the part, however, with four points between themselves and fifth-place and a game in hand on most of their rivals.
Andrew Depta, Jacob Tratt and Sean O’Connell have been ever-present for the Sharks this season, having played in all 18 league games, and they will hope there are a few more games to come when the home-and-away season finishes.
Sydney Olympic FC v Blacktown City FC, 3.00 pm Saturday at Belmore Sports Ground
It was a good weekend for both Sydney Olympic FC and Blacktown City FC last week.
Olympic’s remarkable comeback from 2-0 down to win 3-2 against Blacktown Spartans has put an eight point buffer between itself and the chasing pack in fourth place.
Blacktown City’s hard-fought 1-0 win over Marconi effectively gave Mark Crittenden’s side one hand on the premiership.
If City matches or betters APIA Leichhardt’s result this weekend, it will be premiers for 2015.
Danny Choi’s brace two weeks ago has been the highlight in a rather barren period for City which has struggled to score the goals much of its play has deserved and the likes of Travis Major will be desperate to be back among the goals this weekend.
Both sides have FFA Cup fixtures to think about as well, with Blacktown playing Metrostars on Wednesday night at Lily’s Football Centre, while Olympic must travel to Canberra midweek to take on Gungahlin United.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC v Parramatta FC, 4.15 pm at Lambert Park
After a shock loss to South Coast Wolves last weekend, APIA Leichhardt Tigers will be keen to get back to winning ways against a relegation threatened Parramatta FC.
The Eagles showed they have the stomach for the fight last week, however, when it scored a remarkable four second-half goals against Bonnyrigg White Eagles to overturn a 3-1 half-time deficit at Melita Stadium.
The win provided some much-needed club championship points with just six points now separating the Eagles from second-bottom Marconi Stallions.
Marco Sama was brilliant for the Eagles as captain Patrick Gatt made a long-awaited return to the heart of defence, and the Eagles will hope to go back-to-back at Lambert Park.
Rockdale City Suns v South Coast Wolves, 5pm Saturday at Ilinden Sports Centre
Two of the competition’s in-form and most unlikely finals candidates will lock horns at Ilinden Sports Centre on Sunday night when Rockdale City Suns host South Coast Wolves.
The Suns are just a point off fifth place with a game in hand over the majority of its rivals, while South Coast Wolves are only a further point behind.
The Wolves have struggled for results on their travels in recent times.
They played well against Bonnyrigg White Eagles two weeks ago but failed to take their chances, but returned to winning ways last week against second-placed APIA Leichhardt Tigers with a third win in five games.
The Suns on the other hand are undefeated in their last five and boast a number of class players hitting dangerous form at the best possible time.
Alec Urosevski and Marko Jesic have been impressive recently, as has Dylan Macallister – despite his ongoing search for his first goal – and Daniel Petkovski.