We’re past the halfway mark of the PlayStation®4 NPL NSW Men’s U20 competition and it couldn’t be tighter with just nine points separating first placed Blacktown City to tenth placed neighbours Blacktown Spartans.
And with each team demonstrating that they can beat anyone on their given day, there are sure to be several surprises in store in an action-packed Heritage Round.
Match of the Round
Sydney Olympic v APIA Leichhardt Tigers, Sunday 1.00pm at Belmore Sports Ground
Two sides with top six ambitions meet in an important Sunday afternoon clash at Belmore Sports Ground with sixth-placed Sydney Olympic hosting fifth-placed APIA Leichhardt.
Only goal difference separates the two traditional rivals on the competition ladder and in one of the tightest competitions in recent memory, there is arguably no better reflection of the nature of this season’s league than the respective positions and fortunes of Olympic and APIA.
Tied on 17 points alongside fourth-placed Wollongong Wolves, the loser of Sunday’s encounter could potentially slide as low as eighth with Hakoah Sydney City East, Bonnyrigg White Eagles, Parramatta and Blacktown Spartans all within striking distance of the top six.
With the season edging into its final half this could prove to be a decisive affair in the context of the finals race and is sure to be an entertaining contest with plenty of exciting talent on display.
Olympic’s Michael Loupis netted a hattrick against Blacktown Spartans last weekend and has been a shrewd operator in the final third for John Theodoropoulos’ side this campaign whilst APIA profess no shortage in the firepower department with the likes of Duncan Stewart and Dominic Cox offering consistent sights of their calibre in APIA Leichhardt’s season to date.
Sutherland Sharks v Manly United, 4.30pm at Seymour Shaw
Sutherland Sharks have risen to third place on the competition ladder after securing four consecutive wins and they will put their premiership credentials to the test when Allan Edmondson’s side host second-placed Manly United at Seymour Shaw.
Manly produced one of campaign’s standout results in their comprehensive 3-1 defeat of competition leaders Blacktown City when the Cromer Park outfit put the heavyweights to the sword in their own backyard on Sunday.
It broke a run of three games without a win for Manly who, having steadied the ship in such emphatic fashion, will fancy their chances at toppling their cousins in one of the round’s most anticipated fixtures.
Manly ran out 2-1 victors in the reverse fixture on the opening round of the PlayStation 4 NPL NSW Men’s 20’s tournament with Sipan Berti at the double, and it will no doubt be another close encounter as the two sides keep the heat on Blacktown City at the top of the table.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles v Rockdale City Suns, 5.00pm at Bonnyrigg Sports Club
Back to back losses have seen Bonnyrigg drop out of the top six after a run of five wins in six games had the White Eagles soaring at the front of the table.
But Stephen Sigmund’s side will still remain a challenge of the highest order for bottom-placed Rockdale, who are running out of time to keep their finals hopes alive.
With the best defensive record in the league, Bonnyrigg will hope to banish memories of last week’s 3-1 defeat at home to Wollongong in order to kick-start their campaign once more.
And it could very well be a match that places last-placed Rockdale into the last chance saloon – although the Ilinden side do have time on their hands, and evidence above them on the ladder in Parramatta and Bonnyrigg has shown that achieving a small run of results can go some way in reigniting a faltering season.
Hakoah Sydney City East v Wollongong Wolves, 5.00pm at Hensley Athletic Field
Wollongong Wolves enjoyed a fine away day at Bonnyrigg Sports Club last Saturday to propel the South Coast side into fourth position but that could easily be swept away when Alfredo Esteves’ men take on Hakoah Sydney City East at Hensley Athletic Field.
A stunning second half comeback saw Hakoah Sydney City East come from two goals down at half time in last weekend’s 4-2 win against Sydney United 58, and with the side snapping at the heels of Sydney Olympic, APIA Leichhardt Tigers and their Round 12 opponents Wollongong Wolves another win could see Hakoah restore their position in the top six.
It will be a tough ask against a Wolves side who have added a strong defensive resilience to their game in recent fixtures and their capacity to call upon the likes of Ricky Zucco could prove to be crucial against Hakoah on Saturday.
Parramatta v Blacktown Spartans, 1.00pm at Melita Stadium
A huge three points are at stake when ninth placed Parramatta host tenth placed Blacktown Spartans at Melita Stadium
Blacktown have been in freefall with just one point from their last fifteen and although they beat Mark Zecchin’s side on the opening day in a 4-3 thriller the momentum is certainly with their opponents.
Parramatta have been growing in confidence and momentum over the last month and in Nicholas Chymiak possess a man in form who must be relishing the chance to meet the Spartans again, having scored a brace at Blacktown Football Park in Round 1.
Sydney United 58 v Blacktown City, 2.00pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
Blacktown City will look to get their championship campaign back on track when they visit 11th placed Sydney United at Sydney United Sports Centre on Sunday.
The match precedes what looms to be the match of the 2016 PlayStation 4 NPL NSW Men’s season so far where the two first grade Sydney and Blacktown teams have been standout challengers.
But this is sure to be match capable of offering highlights of a similar calibre with Blacktown City sensing an opportunity to regain ground at the top knowing second placed Manly travel to third placed Sutherland the day before.
Similarly there is a lot on the line for Davor Bajsic’s Sydney who demonstrated their quality when they raced to a 2-0 half-time lead against the competition frontrunners back in the first round of the season; they will hope to finish the job for a crucial win should they be offered a second chance.
-By Jacob Windon