We’re officially one third of the way through the regular season of the PlayStation®4 NPL NSW Men’s U20 competition but there’s still no separating the genuine challengers from the also-rans.
With only two wins standing between third-placed Blacktown Spartans and tenth-placed Rockdale City Suns, the door to the top six remains ajar and Round Eight could be a pivotal weekend in cementing the claim for premiership glory.
A bumper Round Eight of the campaign sees Blacktown Spartans host first-placed Manly United at Blacktown Football Park whilst a struggling Rockdale City Suns side host an in-form Blacktown City who are hot on the heels of competition leaders.
But the Match of the Round is at Bonnyrigg Sports Club where Bonnyrigg White Eagles entertain Parramatta on Saturday afternoon.
Match of the Round
Bonnyrigg White Eagles v Parramatta, 5.00pm at Bonnyrigg Sports Club
Bonnyrigg have turned their season around of late with three wins in their last four, but after suffering a setback in the form of a 2-1 loss to Sydney Olympic last weekend, the sixth-placed White Eagles have had what looked like a significant dose of momentum scuppered.
They will look to respond at home on Saturday afternoon, but it won’t be easy against a Parramatta team who are slowly picking themselves off the foot of the table and getting the results their performances have merited for large parts of the season.
Key to this revival, which has seen Mark Zecchin’s side pick up four points in their last two matches, has been the goalscoring form of Jayden Taunton who has picked up two goals in his last two appearances – and important strikes at that with a winner at home to Sydney Olympic in Round Six and a telling goal in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Sydney United 58.
With a Parramatta win dragging the side off the foot of the table and placing the current cellar dwellers two points behind Saturday’s opponents, an exciting encounter awaits at Bonnyrigg Sports Club, a ground that has produced eight goals and two crucial Bonnyrigg victories in its last two fixtures.
Blacktown Spartans v Manly United, 5.00pm at Blacktown Football Park
Back to back losses to Sydney United and APIA Leichhardt Tigers has seen Blacktown Spartans drop six points behind competition leaders and Saturday’s opponents Manly United, and the side will be desperate to prevent a third consecutive defeat when they host the first placed outfit in one of Round Eight’s most eye-catching fixtures.
Samuel Jacobs’ side were felled 3-2 against Sydney United in Round Six and APIA Leichhardt in Round Seven and the 13 goals Blacktown have conceded so far this campaign is beginning to look like a cause for concern.
The visiting Manly United therefore represents an arduous challenge for third-placed Blacktown, with Andrew Christiansen’s side firing on all cylinders so far this season. Manly have rotated their array of attacking options to great success with the likes of Sipan Berti, Dylan Whitlock and Edward Rinaldi all contributing their share of goal returns.
But with an impressive Spartans outfit led by lynchpin Alex Mooy, who has registered six goals in seven matches, and with both sides possessing a predisposition for attacking football, there should be goals at Blacktown Football Park in this crucial Round Eight encounter.
Hakoah Sydney City East v Sydney Olympic, 5.00pm at Hensley Athletic Field
Hakoah Sydney City East secured a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Sutherland Sharks at Seymour Shaw last weekend, a result that saw the side return to the top six.
It was a much needed three points for the Dino D’Agrosa and Patrick Devill coached side, who were guilty of leaking goals at the back for weeks previous. Hakoah were well organised, disciplined and focussed in their victory at Sutherland, a performance that should provide a template for the league newcomers to build on as they aim to cement a position in the top half.
This newfound resilience will be put to the test at Hensley Athletic Field against a side Sydney Olympic capable of mixing it with the best on their given day.
The Belmore side produced a big result in Round Seven by defeating an in-form Bonnyrigg White Eagles with wide forward Michael Loupis securing a 2-1 victory with a brace. Loupis’ contribution was a welcome one for Olympic, who have been reliant on competition top scorer Adrian Vranic for goals this season.
It is indicative of an improving side, and if new manager John Theodoropoulos can add further modifications to the side, particularly in the area of defence, Olympic will prove to be a difficult task for Saturday’s opponents.
Rockdale City Suns v Blacktown City, 5.00pm at Ilinden Sports Centre
Rockdale City Suns will be looking to snap a streak of three consecutive losses when they host second-placed Blacktown City at Ilinden Sports Centre.
The tenth-placed side made a positive start to the season with two wins from the opening month but have been on a downward spiral ever since, conceding a league high 18 goals in total.
And coming up against a Blacktown City side who appear back to their formidable best, the Rockdale defence will have to step up against a strike force boasting the likes of Jonathan Grozdanovski who has collected four goals to his name in the past fortnight.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers v Sydney United 58, 2.15pm at Lambert Park
APIA Leichhardt Tigers will be searching for a third win on the bounce when they tackle a Sydney United 58 side who continue to grow in confidence and stature.
It makes for a fascinating encounter at Lambert Park, where APIA Leichhardt edged Blacktown Spartans in a 3-2 thriller in Round Seven. Danial Cummins’ side are beginning to hit their straps after returning from several months competing in Italy and with seven goals in their last two the visiting Sydney United 58 defence must keep a close eye on the likes of Dominic Cox and Duncan Stewart who have been amongst the goals in recent weeks.
It’s another excellent opportunity for Davor Bajsic’s Sydney to showcase their newfound resilience, and after securing their first win of the season against Blacktown Spartans in Round Six the 11th-placed outfit appear to have turned a corner.
In livewire forwards James Temelkovski and Alex Vlismas, Sunday’s visitors have more than enough reason to believe they can keep their good run going against the free-scoring APIA Leichhardt.
Wollongong Wolves v Sutherland Sharks, 3.00pm at WIN Stadium
A tough run of fixtures has seen Wollongong Wolves face competition frontrunners Manly United and Blacktown City in consecutive weeks and two straight defeats has given Alfredo Esteves’ outfit a reality check as the fifth-placed side return to the South Coast on Sunday afternoon.
They will entertain a Sutherland side who have remained frustratingly inconsistent in the opening third of the campaign, with Allan Edmonson’s side suffering their fourth loss of the season at home to Hakoah Sydney City East in Round Seven.
The seventh-placed Sutherland have swung between both extremes for large periods of the season and have often struggled in the final third as evidenced in their 1-0 defeat at home to Hakoah Sydney City East last Saturday.
It will be difficult to separate the two sides at WIN Stadium in what looks like a crucial fifth-versus-seventh clash.