Top two Manly United and Sutherland Sharks are separated on goal difference with just four weeks of the regular season remaining, while it’s a make or break weekend for the likes of Sydney Olympic and Blacktown Spartans.
The Match of the Round is at Lilys Football Centre where Blacktown City will look to stop the rot against Rockdale City Suns.
Match of the Round
Blacktown City v Rockdale City Suns, 1.00pm at Lilys Football Centre
Bottom team Rockdale City Suns might sense a rare opportunity to notch three points off one of the big boys when they travel to Lilys Football Centre to take on a Blacktown City side in freefall.
The reigning champions dropped out of the top five for the first time this campaign after a 2-0 loss to Wollongong last weekend and Blacktown are now in real danger of missing out on the finals series with just four rounds of the regular season remaining.
Ben Wright’s side have won just one of their last nine matches and have suffered big defeats to Bonnyrigg White Eagles (8-0) and Hakoah Sydney City East 5-2) in recent weeks. With Wollongong taking their place in the finals positions and Hakoah Sydney City East holding a game in hand on Blacktown with superior goal difference, the encounter with the lowly Ilinden side on Sunday is simply a must win.
Sutherland Sharks v Wollongong Wolves, 4.30pm at Seymour Shaw
Sutherland’s steady march towards the championship will face a big intervention on Saturday afternoon in the form of Wollongong Wolves who will be brimming with confidence after defeating Blacktown City 2-0 last weekend.
The South Coast side lost 4-0 to Sydney United 58 and 3-1 to Manly United before the victory over Blacktown but that win sees Alfredo Esteves’ side leapfrog Hakoah Sydney City East and the reigning champions on the competition ladder.
Knowing anything but a win may send the side back out of the finals positions, the Wolves will need to lift their game against one of the tournament benchmarks in Sutherland who have conceded a league low 19 goals, boast one of the competition’s most inform marksman in Jeremy Cox, and are undefeated in their last six games.
Sutherland, meanwhile, are looking for a victory in order to keep pace with frontrunners Manly United, who only lead the Sharks on goal difference.
Parramatta v Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 5.00pm at Melita Stadium
With Parramatta’s finals hopes all but mathematically over and the Melita club relatively safe on the club championship ladder, Bonnyrigg White Eagles will hope to make minimal fuss when they take on Mark Zecchin’s side on Saturday evening.
The White Eagles are only two points behind the top two of Manly United and Sutherland Sharks, have kept three clean sheets in their last five matches, and have been grinding out uncompromising victories (not including their 8-0 hammering of Blacktown City in Round 16).
Parramatta on the other hand have seen what was a campaign full of potential come to pass in the last month of action. The eleventh-placed side haven’t won since Round 11 and have despite collecting four admirable draws against Manly United, Blacktown City, Sutherland Sharks and Sydney Olympic, the Eagles now seem destined to finish in the lower regions of the table.
Sydney Olympic v Hakoah Sydney City East, 1.00pm at Belmore Sports Ground
Sydney Olympic’s 2-1 loss to Bonnyrigg last round probably spelled the end of their finals chances and after dominating for large sections of the game it was the kind of result that pinpointed a frustrating season for the Belmore side.
However, with coach John Theodoropoulos targeting four wins from the remaining four games Olympic will have an outside chance of scraping into the top five, especially if the Blues can manage a victory over Hakoah Sydney City East on the weekend.
The league newcomers slipped to seventh on the ladder after a 3-0 defeat to Sutherland last weekend but with a match in hand and superior goal difference to that of fifth-placed Wollongong Wolves and sixth-placed Blacktown City, Hakoah are in firm control of their finals fate.
Manly United v Blacktown Spartans, 1.00pm at Cromer Park
Competition leaders Manly United know they can’t afford to slip up when a desperate Blacktown Spartans side arrive at Cromer Park on Sunday afternoon.
The Spartans were defeated 2-1 at home by APIA Leichhardt last weekend and will regard their clash with Manly as a must-win with Samuel Jacob’s side four points off fifth-placed Wollongong Wolves with four matches remaining.
Similarly, Manly United will hope to navigate through what looks a tricky fixture in order to maintain their premiership assault with Sutherland Sharks and Bonnyrigg White Eagles hot on their tails.
Sydney United 58 v APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 2.00pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
Sydney United 58 are aiming to continue their late season revival when they host fourth-placed APIA Leichhardt Tigers at Sydney United Sports Centre in Sunday’s late kick off.
The Reds have climbed out of the bottom two courtesy of three wins in their last six: frustratingly sandwiched in amongst two defeats to last-placed Rockdale and a struggling Blacktown Spartans side.
It could be a genuine danger match for APIA Leichhardt who need to maintain their position in the finals. George Sidis’ side have established a comfortable three point cushion to the other finals chasing sides but can’t afford to relinquish their advantage with huge matches against Manly United, Blacktown City and Sutherland Sharks on the horizon.
–By Jacob Windon