It’s still all to play for as we enter the final third of the PlayStation®4 NPL NSW Men’s U20 with only seven points separating Sutherland in first to Sydney Olympic in eighth.
This weekend could have significant ramifications on the finals make up with Bonnyrigg White Eagles hosting Blacktown City, while Wollongong Wolves host APIA Leichhardt Tigers.
But the Match of the Round focusses on leaders Sutherland Sharks, who have the opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the table and put a big dent in the finals hopes of Parramatta when they face off at Melita Stadium on Sunday.
Match of the Round
Parramatta v Sutherland Sharks, Sunday 1.00pm at Melita Stadium
Although Sutherland were held to an exciting 2-2 draw by Sydney Olympic last weekend at Belmore Sports Ground, Allan Edmonson’s side retained their lead at the top of the table with Blacktown City failing to take advantage at home to Parramatta.
The competition leaders will try to avoid the same scenario when they take on Mark Zecchin’s tenth-placed outfit at Melita Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Parramatta offered another showing of their calibre when they held reigning champions Blacktown City to a 1-1 draw at Lilys Football Centre last Sunday but it will be another tough examination of their finals credentials when Sutherland, who have only lost once in their last eight, visit Melita Stadium on the weekend.
During their impressive mid-season surge the Sharks have kept four clean sheets in keeping with their status as one of the competitions steeliest defensive outfits and the pressure will be on Parramatta to put away the chances they are capable of creating if they are to keep their finals hopes alive.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles v Blacktown City, 5.00pm at Bonnyrigg Sports Centre
Bonnyrigg White Eagles and Blacktown City will be hoping that Sutherland falter at Melita Stadium with both second and third placed sides meeting on Saturday night at Bonnyrigg Sports Centre.
The two sides met earlier in the year at Lilys Football Centre where Bonnyrigg pulled off one of the standout results of the campaign, beating the reigning champions 4-0 on their own turf.
Since that day Stephen Sigmund’s side have been considered one of the finer and most consistent sides in the competition and it should be no surprise the White Eagles occupy third place at the conclusion of Round 15.
Boasting the joint best defensive record alongside leaders Sutherland, Bonnyrigg have excelled defensively over the middle third of the season and bar a shock 3-1 defeat at home to Rockdale in Round 12, the White Eagles have only conceded a solitary goal in their last four matches.
A convincing 2-0 win at Cromer Park last Round will have Bonnyrigg entering the third versus second clash with all the momentum and with Blacktown City still struggling through their worst period of the season the home side look set to continue to march up the competition ladder.
Sydney Olympic v Sydney United 58, 1.00pm at Belmore Sports Ground
Sydney Olympic were able to hold first-placed Sutherland to a credible 2-2 draw at home last weekend but the eighth-placed Blues will have eyes on all three points when rivals Sydney United 58 come to Belmore Sports Ground.
With Hakoah Sydney City East playing Manly United and APIA Leichhardt Tigers and Wollongong Wolves also in action on later on Sunday afternoon, there is a big opportunity for Olympic to get climb ahead of their opponents against bottom placed United 58.
A 2-0 defeat at home to fellow strugglers Rockdale last weekend spelt the end of a realistic chance of a finals berth for Davor Bajsic’s side but Olympic will be wary of United 58’s ability to spring an upset when they clash on Sunday.
Hakoah Sydney City East v Manly United, 3.00pm at Hensley Athletic Field
Hakoah Sydney City East fought back from a man and two goals down last weekend to salvage a 2-2 draw against APIA Leichhardt Tigers in a result that kept the league newcomers inside the top six on goal difference.
With the side only four points behind fourth-placed Manly United with a game in hand, Hakoah will sense a real opportunity to set up a late surge towards premiership contention if they can emerge victorious at Hensley Athletic Field on Sunday.
It won’t be easy against a Manly United team who can sense their place in the top four slipping away on the back of a poor run of results. Andrew Christiansen’s side have contested their position in the upper echelon of the table consistently throughout the year but have now lost three matches on the trot.
The great frustration for the Cromer Park faithful is that this treble of defeats followed back to back victories over championship frontrunners Sutherland and Blacktown City, performances that might have cemented United among the favourites for the major trophies.
And with Wollongong, Sydney Olympic, APIA Leichhardt and this round’s opponents Hakoah all having a game in hand over Manly it could be a pivotal weekend for the team as they look to avoid a fourth consecutive loss.
Rockdale City Suns v Blacktown Spartans, 3.00pm at Ilinden Sports Centre
It seems inconceivable that Rockdale City Suns, who seemed odds on for this campaigns wooden spoon only a month ago after registering a single point Rounds Four and Eleven, are now only six points behind this weekend’s opponents Blacktown Spartans with a game in hand.
But a late charge for the finals could well and truly be ignited should the Ilinden side defeat Blacktown on Sunday afternoon. Rockdale have offered their best run of form so far this season over the last five matches with seven points gained from an available fifteen and they will be hoping to continue their positive run against Spartans when the two clash.
Blacktown defeated Wollongong at home last Round to keep their season alive having won only twice in their previous ten matches. With the loser of this affair unlikely to recover in time for a finals berth it makes for an intriguing contest at Ilinden Sports Centre.
Wollongong Wolves v APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 3.00pm at WIN Stadium
Both Wollongong and APIA Leichhardt suffered setbacks to their finals hopes in Round 15 with Wolves going down 1-0 at Blacktown Football Park while the Tigers surrendered a two goal lead at home to Hakoah Sydney City East.
Only goal difference separates the two sides on the table and with the loser at risk of dropping out of the top six there’s plenty at stake when they meet at WIN Stadium.
APIA Leichhardt’s Duncan Stewart remains the central threat for Wollongong with the in-form marksman netting another brace against Hakoah in Round 15 to take outright lead in the race for the golden boot.
Wollongong’s defeat at the hands of Blacktown Spartans last week was their first in six matches and with Manly United, Sutherland and Blacktown City all to come for Alfredo Esteves’ side in the next three games it will be imperative for the South Coast side to take maximum points against the Tigers.
– By Jacob Windon