With only five points separating fifth-placed Bonnyrigg White Eagles and tenth-placed Parramatta – a side who spent the opening eight rounds of the competition languishing at the foot of the table, the PlayStation 4 NPL NSW Men’s U20 competition could not get any tighter.
The landscape is bound to shift once more in a Round 11 that will see the top six in action against their nearest rivals with Sutherland Sharks hosting APIA Leichhardt Tigers, Bonnyrigg White Eagles welcoming Wollongong Wolves and Blacktown City facing Manly United.
The latter is the highly anticipated first versus second Match of the Round at Lilys Football Centre.
Match of the Round
Blacktown City v Manly United, Sunday 1.00pm at Lilys Football Centre
All eyes will be on Lilys Football Centre on Sunday afternoon when Blacktown City host Manly United in a mouth-watering top of the table encounter.
Having nailed their title ambitions to the mast early on in the season the last three weeks have seen Manly United suffer a series of setbacks, with back to back losses to APIA Leichhardt and last round’s shock 2-1 defeat to Sydney United 58 relinquishing their lead at the top of the table.
A clinical Blacktown City side has taken advantage of Manly’s slump and although the Ben Wright coached side were held to a 0-0 draw by APIA Leichhardt Tigers in Round 10’s Match of the Round at Lambert Park, Blacktown have picked up 13 points from an available 15 in an excellent turn of form that has seen the side overtake Sunday’s second-placed opponents on the ladder.
Last Sunday’s stalemate with APIA was the third time this campaign Blacktown have been held scoreless, indicating that whilst the reigning champions look like favourites to defend their 2015 crown at this point in time there’s still plenty of improvements to be made.
And although it seems any side could challenge for the highest honours this season, a win on Sunday for Blacktown would cement their reputation as the team to beat once more in season 2016.
Sutherland Sharks v APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 4.30pm at Seymour Shaw
Round 11 of the PlayStation 4 NPL NSW Men’s U20 competition kicks off at Seymour Shaw on Saturday afternoon with fourth-placed Sutherland Sharks taking on third-placed APIA Leichhardt Tigers.
It’s sure to be an enthralling encounter when the two championship dark horses meet for the first time this season, with Allan Edmondson’s Sutherland coming off the back of three successive victories and George Sidis’ APIA Leichhardt firing on all cylinders having lost just once of their last six.
Only goal difference will separate the two sides prior to the matches’ commencement and it’s sure to go down to the wire when the two face off in Saturday’s contest.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles v Wollongong Wolves, 5.00pm at Bonnyrigg Sports Club
Bonnyrigg lost for the first time in six matches when Stephen Sigmund’s outfit slumped to a 2-0 defeat at Hakoah Sydney City East in Round 10 and revenge will be firmly on the minds of the White Eagles when Wollongong Wolves come to Bonnyrigg Sports Club.
The South Coast outfit come into the clash in fine fickle having dismantled Parramatta 4-0 at WIN Stadium last Sunday, a match that saw first team usual Ricky Zucco net a hat-trick.
It’s another crucial fixture in a round brimming with decisive encounters – fifth versus sixth at Bonnyrigg Sports Club, with Wollongong trailing their hosts by a single point.
Bonnyrigg have tasted victory in their last three outings at home, and it will be a tough test for the travelling Wolves who must break down the competition’s meanest defence in order to secure what would be a crucial victory – one that would see them leapfrog the White Eagles on the competition ladder.
Sydney Olympic v Blacktown Spartans, 1.00pm at Belmore Sports Ground
Sydney Olympic host Blacktown Spartans on Sunday afternoon with the boys from Belmore looking to fight their way into the top six.
A mixed bag of results for Olympic with two 1-1 draws against Wollongong Wolves and Rockdale City Suns in as many weeks has lifted the importance of three points against a struggling Spartans side who are winless in their last five matches.
Samuel Jacob’s team lost their fourth match of this winless spell at home to Sutherland Sharks last Saturday, a result that saw the Blacktown side slip to ninth in the table. With Sunday’s opponents leading a host of finals hopefuls who have all captured form at the time of the Spartans’ malaise, another setback for Blacktown could have significant ramifications on the top six at the end of the season.
Parramatta v Rockdale City Suns, 1.00pm at Melita Stadium
A 4-0 defeat to a rampant Wollongong Wolves on Sunday brought Parramatta crashing back to earth after Mark Zecchin’s side had stunningly put themselves within a point of the top six with a midweek hammering of competition heavyweights APIA Leichhardt Tigers.
Although it was the Melita Stadium side’s sixth defeat of the campaign, the manner of the loss will come as a great disappointment to Parramatta who have consistently mixed it with the best despite their lowly standing on the competition ladder.
They will hope to make further enhancements to their finals hopes when they tackle bottom-placed Rockdale City Suns at Melita Stadium on Sunday.
With only three points separating the two sides, Rockdale will need no motivation to claim all three points as they search for their first win since Round Four.
Sydney United 58 v Hakoah Sydney City East, 2.00pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
Following a sensational 2-1 upset win over Manly United in Round Ten, Sydney United 58 welcome Hakoah Sydney City East to Sydney United Sports Centre hoping two achieve back to back wins for the first time this season.
Davor Bajsic’s ranks will no doubt be buoyed by one of the standout results of the PlayStation 4 NPL NSW Men’s U20 campaign so far would do their finals hopes a major boost if they can repeat a similar feat on Sunday.
Standing in their way is a Hakoah Sydney City East outfit also coming off the back of a major upset victory with the 2-0 defeat of in-form Bonnyrigg White Eagles placing the league newcomers within striking distance of the top six.
-By Jacob Windon