Grand Final heartbreak is fuelling Blacktown City FC’s Championship charge this season, as they hope to book their spot in a third-straight showpiece.
Blacktown went into last season’s PlayStation® 4 National Premier Leagues New South Wales Men’s finals series as clear favourites after a near flawless league campaign only to come undone not once but twice against Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC in the finals.
This season, Sydney United 58 FC make their debut in finals as the hot favourites to take the crown in the Major Semi Final, having earned a week off by finishing the home-and-away campaign as minor premiers.
It is a position Blacktown and their goalkeeper Nenad Vekic are familiar with after last season and the shot-stopper fancies his side’s chances from second place this season.
"There has been a lot of regret in our minds all year after last season," he said.
"We have some unfinished business.
"We obviously would have liked to have finished first in the league, but once Sydney United got on a bit of a roll and it looked like we could not catch them we stopped worrying about finishing first past the post.
"The Grand Final has always been more on our mind and last year’s loss has been on our mind for the entire season."
United have not got a lot wrong this year, winning the Minor Premiership and the Waratah Cup this season, but if there is a team they have struggled against it is Blacktown.
City’s most recent success over United came in the Westfield FFA Cup Round of 32 when they defeated Mark Rudan’s side 4-2 after extra-time.
In the league, Blacktown won one and lost their other game against Sydney United 58, meaning they lead 2-1 in head-to-head contests this year.
"I think Sydney United 58 really stepped up this year. They are not too different to last year on paper, but a lot of the pieces have fallen in place for them this year," Vekic said.
"But I think the FFA Cup win gives us a bit of an edge.
"We were 2-0 down that night and we came back and that means no matter how the game starts in the final, they will be uneasy because we’ve been down a goal or two against them to come back and win.
"Finals games are always different … but I think our results against them this season gives us a bit of an edge."
Vekic was celebrating yet again as his side became the first PS4 NPL NSW Men’s side that qualified for the Westfield FFA Cup Quarter-Finals after a convincing victory over the Bonnyrigg White Eagles on Wednesday evening further fuelling the keeper’s ambition in ticking more boxes for the 2016 season.
Sunday 28th August
Sydney United 58 v Blacktown City @ Sydney United Sports Centre
-By Matt Galea