It’s round 12 of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition and we’re past the halfway mark of the season.
Wollongong Wolves has gone the first 11 rounds as the only team to occupy first place and will start the second half of the campaign with a three point lead from second placed APIA Leichhardt Tigers.
The battle for finals football is surely going to heat up over the final 11 rounds of the season with only seven points separating third and eighth.
With the transfer window now open expect a number of new additions to add a little extra spice to the finals race.
This week’s games kick off on Saturday night at Seymour Shaw Park as Sutherland Sharks host Sydney Olympic FC.
Saturday night features three more fixtures with Sydney FC taking on Hakoah Sydney City East, Marconi Stallions going up against APIA Leichhardt Tigers and Blacktown City visiting Mt Druitt Town Rangers.
Sunday features two matches with Wollongong Wolves travelling to Cromer Park to play Manly United, while Rockdale City Suns close out the round with a grudge match against rivals Sydney United 58.
Sutherland Sharks FC v Sydney Olympic FC, Saturday 6.30pm at Seymour Shaw Park
Sutherland Sharks will be hoping for a carbon copy of their round one win when they host Sydney Olympic at Seymour Shaw Park on Saturday.
It has been a bizarre run of form for the Sharks who are on a four game undefeated streak yet have not won a match in 11 weeks.
The Terry Palapanis coached side have taken points off Premiership favourites Wollongong Wolves and Rockdale City Suns during their past four games in hard earned draws, but it could’ve been very different had it not been for a few lapses in concentration.
The season ending injury to Anthony Bouzanis seems less damning after the shock return of club great Nathan Denham.
Denham showed he has lost little of his ability between the sticks during last week’s draw with the Suns.
Palapanis hinted at a number of new additions to the squad this week with the transfer window opening so expect plenty of changed to the Sharks starting line-up.
Their opponents Sydney Olympic will be determined to bounce back after a shock defeat to Sydney FC in Round 11.
The result last week was shock slump for Olympic who had seemingly rediscovered their form in recent weeks after an up and down start to the campaign.
Sitting just outside the top five in sixth position, Abbas Saad’s side will need to turn over a new leaf in the second half of the season if they are to defend their premiership and championship titles. Once again their Spanish star import Alejandro (Alex) Sanchez continues to wow the fans with his elusive finishing and he will again be one of the key players that can unlock the Sharks defence.
Despite seven points separating Olympic and Sutherland on the ladder, this match is sure to be a tightly contested affair and if round 1’s clash was anything to go by the result could very well be an upset.
Sydney FC v Hakoah Sydney City East, Saturday 7pm at Lambert Park
Back to back wins will be the order of the day when Sydney FC host Hakoah Sydney City East on Saturday at Lambert Park.
The Young Sky Blues pulled off a massive upset last week with a brilliant back to the wall 3-2 win against Sydney Olympic and confidence is sure to be high for Jimmy van Weeren’s side.
Another upside for van Weeren is the end of the A-League season which means he could be set to have rising stars Joel King and Luke Ivanovic more readily available over the second half of the campaign.
Both King and Ivanovic found themselves on the scoresheet last week and are only going to get better as the season goes on.
Ryan Teague was another impressive performer in last week’s win and the holding midfielder will be expected to star against a struggling Hakoah attack.
It’s been a tough run for Hakoah over the past two months with the Gavin Rae coached side finishing the first half of the season anchored to the bottom of the table with only two wins from 11 matches.
Their struggles finding the back of the net continued last round in a 1-0 loss to Blacktown City with Amaury Gauthier spurning a chance to equalise from the penalty spot.
The threat of relegation is becoming more and more real for Hakoah with the club needing a major turn around if they are to rescue their season.
Sydney FC will be favourites for this match at home but perhaps the second half of the season is the time Hakoah reignites their stuttering campaign.
Marconi Stallions FC v APIA Leichhardt Tigers , Saturday 7pm at Marconi Stadium
Derby bragging rights go on the line this Saturday as Marconi Stallions host APIA Leichhardt Tigers at Marconi Stadium.
The Stallions have lost their way in recent weeks and will be hoping that a win against competition frontrunners APIA is the perfect elixir to kick-start their season.
Marconi has slumped out of the top five and down to eighth place after a loss against Wollongong Wolves last week.
Coach Peter Tsekenis will be furiously searching for a way to inspire his star studded squad back to winning ways.
Marko Jesic had a Jekyll and Hyde game against the Wolves with the striker netting a brilliant goal before missing a penalty.
Tsekenis will need to help his big name players find more consistency if Marconi are to be a real premiership threat.
APIA come into this game seemingly out of their own recent downturn in form.
A tough comeback win against Mt Druitt last week showed their is still plenty fight left in the tank at Lambert Park.
Winger Corey Biczo has had a tough run with injury but demonstrated he is a major contributor to the Tigers success when fit after scoring the winner against the Rangers.
Depth could prove to be a concern for APIA with star recruit Andre de Jong departing the club to join South African Premier Soccer League team AmaZulu.
Don’t be surprised to see APIA explore the transfer market in the coming weeks with former favourite son Blake Powell set to make his Lambert Park return.
Marconi should never be written off and will push APIA all the way on Saturday night.
Expect an explosive game with plenty of end to end action.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers v Blacktown City FC, Saturday 7pm at Popondetta Park
It is a Western Sydney derby as Mt Druitt play host to Blacktown City at Popondetta Park on Saturday night.
Mt Druitt come into this clash desperate to even the ledger after going down to Blacktown City in their round one clash this season.
The Rangers were very unlucky losers against APIA Leichhardt last week as they conceded in the final five minutes to allow the Tigers to snatch all three points.
Key attacking weapon Toufic Alameddine had one of his best performances in a Mt Druitt jersey last week and coach Aidan Desmond will be wanting to see more of the same from the talented winger.
Another player that has been in the spotlight has been the form of Uruguayan star import Fabricio Fernandez who has managed to score five goals in the last five matches.
Their opponents Blacktown City scraped their way to a narrow 1-0 win against Hakoah Sydney City East in Round 11.
Coach Mark Crittenden may be happy with the three points but he is sure to remain concerned with their play in the front third.
Blacktown missed a penalty and hit the post twice in the win which will go little way to easing Crittenden’s concerns with their league second worst goal tally.
Issues scoring has been something that the club hopes to rectify as Leroy Jennings and James Demetriou lead the club’s scorers tally with two-a-piece.
Nevertheless the result helps City climb into the top five once again this campaign and they’ll be focused on cementing their place with a win on Saturday night.
Manly United FC v Wollongong Wolves FC, Sunday 3pm at Cromer Park
A big win last round is sure to have Manly United full of confidence as they host league leaders Wollongong Wolves at Cromer Park this Sunday.
Manly eased to a 3-0 win against Sydney United 58 in round 11 as coach Paul Dee outfoxed his opponent Miro Vlastelica to keep their chances of finals football alive.
It was a big performance from pacy winger Charles Mendy who netted his first goal in Manly colours since joining the Northern Beaches side this season.
While Brendan Cholakian netted his fourth goal in his last four matches bringing his tally to seven for the season.
The result is sure to put a smile on coach Paul Dee’s face after a run of costly slip ups from the side in previous matches.
Don’t expect Dee to make many, if any, changes to a winning team for this match.
Wollongong Wolves also flexed their muscles last round with an impressive 3-1 away win against Marconi Stallions.
Despite conceding the opening goal, Luke Wilkshire’s squad fought back to secure another crucial three points and extend their lead at the top of the pile.
Japanese midfielder Takeru Okada finally delivered on his potential against the Stallions with a brace in a brilliant display.
Expect Wilkshire to look to players like Okada more over the second half of the campaign as opposition sides game plan around stopping Wolves league leading striker Thomas James.
James has had a baron two game spell of no goals so Manly will be fearful of the Englishman’s attack.
Club stalwart Justin Pasfield has also been solid under the sticks for the side leading from the back.
Wollongong will be favourites for this match but it could be a long trip back to the South Coast if they are not prepared for a fired up Manly outfit.
Rockdale City Suns FC v Sydney United 58, Sunday 3pm
An old rivalry is set to reignite when Rockdale City Suns host Sydney United 58 at Ilinden Sports Centre on Sunday.
These two sides have a history of heated encounters and with only two points separating them at the top end of the ladder it is sure to be more of the same this time around.
Rockdale City Suns snatched a hard fought 1-1 draw last round against a much improved Sutherland Sharks outfit but are sure to view the result as an opportunity lost against a side much lower than them on the table.
While the Suns winning streak may have come to an end, they are still unbeaten in their last six league matches and won’t want to give up their incredible record against their rivals.
Interim coach Nick Porecca will be buoyed by the team’s shrinking injury list with the squad slowly returning to full strength for the second half of the campaign. Porecca’s latest string of wins could potentially spearhead the committee to gift him a full-time contract due to his change of fortunes since the Suns parted ways with Paul Reid.
Brayden Sorge was the latest player to make a return to the match day squad which is set to make it a real battle for positions in Porecca’s starting team.
Sydney United 58 come into the contest with their tail between their legs after a humiliating 3-0 loss to Manly United.
It was a tough day at the office for the Miro Vlastelica coached side with nothing falling the way of the Reds at Cromer Park in round 11.
However, very few things can fire up a team the way a derby match can so expect United 58 to bounce back in a big way.
Vlastelica had all three of his big name attacking players in Matthew Sim, Peter Simonoski and Patrick Antelmi in the starting line-up against Manly so it will be interesting to see if he goes with a similar attack against the Suns or whether he tinkers with his line-up once more.
In round one, this match was a scoreless stalemate.
Don’t expect that to happen this time around.
Rockdale City Suns will be the favourites at home in front of what will be a big crowd, but this game is sure to feature plenty of fireworks so anything could happen.