ROUND 21 of the Grade 20s plays out over the weekend with two matches on Saturday and four on Sunday in the penultimate week of the regular season.
The Match of the Round sees Premiership hopefuls Marconi Stallions travel to Sydney United Sports Centre on Sunday afternoon, where they will look to make amends for their 5-1 defeat to Sydney United 58 earlier in the season.
Match of the Round
Sydney United 58 FC v Marconi Stallions FC, 1pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
Marconi Stallions head to Sydney United Sports Centre on Sunday afternoon knowing only a win against Sydney United 58 will realistically keep them in the hunt for top spot on the grade 20s competition ladder until the final week of the season, as they enter round 21 three points behind first-placed Blacktown City.
After an important 2-0 win over Sutherland Sharks last week made sure they kept pace with Blacktown, the Stallions face a Sydney United 58 side that is stumbling towards a fifth-placed finish, with two wins, two losses and a draw over the last five weeks bringing their regular season to a close with finals football all but mathematically assured.
Last week, United 58 beat Manly United 1-0 with a goal from Cristian Gonzalez.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC v APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 5.30pm at Bonnyrigg Sports Club
BonnyrIgg’s 3-1 defeat of Blacktown Spartans at Bonnyrigg Sports Club last weekend – their third win in four matches, and their fourth match now unbeaten – lifted the White Eagles off the bottom of the grade 20s competition for the first time since the second round of the season, ahead of their match against APIA Leichhardt Tigers on Saturday afternoon.
Bonnyrigg’s relative surge in form lies in stark contrast to APIA, who despite a series of impressive performances have only won once in their previous eight matches. APIA’s latest defeat came last weekend against Parramatta FC, a 1-0 loss at Lambert Park.
Sutherland Sharks FC v Sydney Olympic FC, 5.30pm at Seymour Shaw
Despite sitting in third place ahead of round 21, five points behind competition leaders Blacktown City, and coming off the back of a difficult loss away to Marconi Stallions last Saturday, Sutherland Sharks remain, alongside Blacktown, sure favourites for the premiership as the regular season enters its final two weeks.
The Sharks hold a game in hand over Blacktown and Marconi above them, and this week face a Sydney Olympic side rattled by a stunning 8-1 loss to first-placed Blacktown in the previous round.
Neither side comes into this match in particularly good form: Olympic’s six-match winning came to an unceremonious end last week, while Sutherland have lost two of their last three games, but both will be desperate for points at a crucial point in the season.
Sutherland won this fixture 3-0 when these sides faced each other at Belmore Sports Ground earlier in the season.
Blacktown Spartans FC v Blacktown City FC, 1pm at Blacktown Football Park
Blacktown Spartans took to the field against Bonnyrigg White Eagles last Saturday afternoon an hour after their rivals, Blacktown City, had completed demolishing Sydney Olympic at Belmore Sports Ground across town, and proceeded to lose 3-1, allowing the competition’s bottom-placed side to move up off the foot of the table for the first time since the second week of the season.
Contrasting fortunes will only be highlighted further when the two sides meet at Blacktown Football Park on Sunday afternoon: the Spartans, with just one win in their last five games, can only hope to try to spoil the afternoon for City, who need a win to be sure of holding off Marconi and Sutherland and securing the premiership ahead of the finals series.
Parramatta FC v Rockdale City Suns FC, 1pm at Melita Stadium
Parramatta FC kept themselves mathematically in the race for a spot in the finals after edging a 1-0 win over APIA Leichhardt Tigers at Lambert Park last weekend, and host Rockdale City Suns on Sunday afternoon needing to win all of their final three matches to have any hope of catching Sydney United 58 and snagging a place in the semi finals.
With three wins in their last four matches, Parramatta are in decidedly better form than their opponents, Rockdale, who last week fell to the bottom of the Grade 20s ladder for the first time this season after suffering a 3-0 loss at home to South Coast Wolves.
Parramatta hit four goals past Rockdale when these sides met at Ilinden Sports Centre earlier in the season, the most the Suns have conceded in a single game in 2015 to date.
South Coast Wolves FC v Manly United FC, 1pm at Win Stadium
South Coast Wolves will look to end their season on a relative high note when they host Manly United in their second last match at Win Stadium this season, a week after comfortably beating Rockdale City Suns 3-0 at Ilinden Sports Centre in round 20.
Both the Wolves and Manly enjoyed mid-year surges before crashing during the second half of the season, and while the home side have seemingly arrested their slide with three wins from their last five games, their visitors have failed to take all three points from a match since the first week of June.
Manly’s latest defeat came last week at home to Sydney United 58, where they were beaten 1-0 courtesy of a goal from Cristian Gonzalez. South Coast Wolves and Manly United sit in sixth and eighth place respectively ahead of their meeting on Sunday afternoon.
by Max Grieve, PS4 National Premier Leagues Grade 20s Reporter