With just two weeks until finals football, the stakes are as high as ever in the PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1.
Be it at the top of the table, where Blacktown City and APIA Leichhardt Tigers remain in a heated battle for the premiership, or in the middle of the table where no less than five teams are scrapping for the fifth and final top-five spot.
Even at the bottom, Parramatta City FC needs points in the senior division to retain its top-flight status.
This week, the Tigers travel to an in-form Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC where they will hope to keep up the pressure on Blacktown City at the top, as Mark Crittenden’s side make the short trip to Blacktown Football Park for the Blacktown derby against Blacktown Spartans.
MATCH OF THE ROUND
Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC v APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC, Saturday 7.30 pm at Bonnyrigg Sports Club
Bonnyrigg White Eagles quickly put a nightmare performance at Melita Stadium behind them last week with a dominant win over Blacktown Spartans to prove their credentials as one of the sides to fear in finals this season.
A win against second-placed APIA Leichhardt Tigers would do that reputation little harm, as the Tigers travel to Bonnyrigg just three points behind Blacktown City with two games to play.
Put simply, the Tigers cannot afford to lose, but Brian Brown and his charges would love nothing more than to put their premiership charge on a halt.
Goals have been hard to come by for the Tigers since Blake Powell’s departure two weeks ago, but Adrian Ucchino stepped up to the plate last week with a late free-kick to seal the points and the Tigers will hope for similar inspiration.
The White Eagles certainly have not suffered from a lack of chances, and while they only scored two last week, through Tynan Diaz and Yuta Kokado, it might have been a cricket score had Robert Younis, Ray Miller, Aaron Peterson and indeed Kokado and Diaz put away even half their collective chances.
ROUND 21 PREVIEWS
Sutherland Sharks FC v Sydney Olympic FC, Saturday 7.30 pm at Seymour Shaw Park
The Sharks are back home after a tough week on the road.
Sutherland was on the wrong end of a derby drubbing in its midweek catch up game against Rockdale City Suns before managing a narrow 2-1 win against bottom placed Marconi Stallions, and will be banking on the home ground advantage when a reinvigorated Sydney Olympic FC visit Seymour Shaw.
Grant Lee’s men look a completely transformed side to the one which could hardly buy a win midseason, beating Blacktown Spartans and then thrashing premiers elect Blacktown City FC 4-0 in their last two games.
Dimitri Hatzimouratis has notched two in his last two games for Olympic, while he was joined on the scoresheet by Scott Balderson and double goalscorer Taiga Soeda who will all be looking to continue their team’s – and personal – rich vein of form.
Blacktown Spartans FC v Blacktown City FC, Sunday 3:00 pm at Blacktown Football Park
Blacktown Spartans will cap of a season defining week at home in one of the biggest clashes of their season – the Blacktown derby.
The Spartans will fight to keep their finals hopes alive on Wednesday night in its mid-week catch up match against Parramatta FC before – if they take three points – looking to do the same against cross-town rivals City on Sunday afternoon.
Mark Critteneden’s side have been the yard stick all season and require just a point to claim the premiership.
Despite that, the likes of Travis Major, Mitchell Mallia and Danny Choi have struggled for goals in the absence of Joseph Gibbs and as a result, City’s form has stalled.
Spartans have struggled as well in the last two weeks, dropping a 2-0 lead against Sydney Olympic before putting in a dispirited effort against Bonnyrigg White Eagles last week.
Those results did come after an impressive run of form which catapulted Ben De Haan’s side into finals contention, but any less than six points from the upcoming week will surely be terminal to his side’s finals hopes.
Parramatta FC v Rockdale City Sun FC, Sunday 3:00 pm at Melita Stadium
Rockdale City Suns FC will do well not to underestimate Parramatta FC when it travels to Melita Stadium on Sunday.
The Eagles will first have to navigate a tough mid-week catch up clash against Blacktown Spartans, but will be hoping to take at least four points from the home games remaining.
Parramatta sit bottom of the club championship table, six points behind second bottom Marconi Stallions, and will hope the likes of Marco Sama, Blade Richards and Joshua Gersbach have a better week in front of goals this week than last after all missing good chances in a 1-0 loss to APIA Leichhardt Tigers.
Rockdale, on the other hand, suffered a somewhat unexpected loss at the hands of South Coast Wolves at home, forfeiting a glorious chance to stamp its authority on fifth place.
Now, Paul Reid’s side must rely on results elsewhere, while not dropping any points, to remain in the finals hunt heading into the final round.
Sydney United 58 FC v Marconi Stallions FC, Sunday 3 pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
For one of Sydney United 58 FC and Marconi Stallions, a horrid run of form will come to an end on Sunday.
Marconi have failed to procure a point at home all season, so might find some solace on the road when it travels to Sydney United Sports Centre.
The Stallions have played well in recent weeks without rewarding itself on the scoresheet, but goals might be a little easier to come by this weekend if Sydney United 58’s miserly defensive record is anything to go by.
In fact, you could say the same for the Stallions as well.
Between the two of them, these two teams have conceded 95 goals in 40 games.
South Coast Wolves FC v Manly United FC, Sunday 3 pm at WIN Stadium
Just three weeks ago, this fixture might not have seemed so season defining, but that’s exactly what Manly United FC’s tri to South Coast Wolves FC’s WIN Stadium is.
Three wins from the Wolves’ last five games have rocketed the Wollongong-based side into finals contention but they still lag one point behind Manly, which has four wins from its last five.
The 5-0 drubbing of Sydney United 58 FC was the latest and the five goals, courtesy of goals Chris Payne, Daniel Bragg, CJ Arditti, moved Manly into fifth-place.
With no less than four other clubs involved in the scrap for fifth place, plenty of eyes will be on Wollongong come Sunday afternoon.
by Matthew Galea, PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 Editor