There’s no margin for error as the 2019 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 20s heads into Round 15, with only goal difference separating third-placed Sydney FC from Sydney Olympic in sixth.
Blacktown City continue to lead the league but two draws in recent weeks means APIA are now nine points behind in second, while at the bottom Sydney United have drifted further away from Hakoah above them. Wollongong Wolves take on Sydney FC on Sunday afternoon as Manly United and Marconi meet at Cromer Park, while in the Match of the Round Sutherland Sharks have the unenviable task of hosting Blacktown.
Match of the Round: Sutherland Sharks v Blacktown City, Saturday 4.30pm at Seymour Shaw
Sutherland Sharks return to Seymour Shaw in Round 15 following a disappointing 2-0 defeat away to APIA Leichhardt last Sunday; the task no easier this weekend with the arrival of Blacktown City.
The Sharks sit twelve points behind the leaders in fifth place, but perhaps more importantly remain level on points with Sydney FC and Rockdale above them, and Sydney Olympic below. A result on Saturday afternoon could prove crucial as the race for the top five begins to heat up.
Blacktown, for their part, travel to Sutherland on the back of their second draw in three games, only the fourth time they’ve dropped points this season.
They remain nine points ahead of second-placed APIA Leichhardt after their 1-1 draw with Sydney Olympic in Round 14; Thomas Bienasz’s goal not enough to help the competition leaders to all three points at Lily Homes Stadium.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers v Rockdale City Suns, 5pm at Popondetta Park
Mt Druitt took a point from an extraordinary draw with Manly United at Popondetta Park last weekend, but would surely trade the excitement for a result as they prepare to take on Rockdale on Saturday afternoon.
Mathew Nikolovski saved penalties two minutes after the kickoff and two minutes from time, while Sallu Kamara scored a brace as the ten-man Rangers came from behind to draw 2-2.
The result saw Mt Druitt slip a place to tenth ahead of this week’s game against Rockdale, who travel to Popondetta in fourth place after their Round 14 loss to Hakoah Sydney City East.
Rockdale have dropped points in seven of their last nine matches, and now find themselves on the edge of the five with Sutherland Sharks and Sydney Olympic right behind.
Manly United v Marconi Stallions, 1pm at Cromer Park
Manly United will be desperate to get on the field against Marconi Stallions on Sunday afternoon after a frustrating ninety minutes against Mt Druitt in Round 14.
United were given penalties in the minutes after kickoff and with the clock ticking down at the end of the match, but missed both and left Popondetta with only a point despite having held the lead over the ten-man Rangers.
They will be keen to make up for lost points this week when they take on Marconi, who travel to Cromer Park in ninth place after a 1-1 draw with Sydney FC in Round 14; the Stallions stretching their unbeaten run to four consecutive matches.
Marconi sit just four points outside the top five ahead of this match, but will do well to stay unbeaten for another week, having lost 4-1 at home when these sides met in April.
Wollongong Wolves FC v Sydney FC, 1pm at Win Stadium
Bul Juach scored a hat-trick as Wollongong cruised to a 3-0 win over Sydney United 58 last weekend, a result which took Wolves within touching distance of the top five.
Wollongong sit three points behind fifth-placed Sutherland Sharks ahead of their Round 15 clash with Sydney FC, and would go level with the Sky Blues – though almost certainly behind on goal difference – should they manage to win again this weekend.
Sydney FC head south to Win Stadium in third place after their Round 14 draw with Marconi Stallions, with Calem Nieuwenhof on hand to earn his side a 1-1 draw on the road.
With only goal difference keeping them from dropping out of the five, the Sky Blues will be desperate for their first win of the month.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers v Sydney United 58, 1.15pm at Lambert Park
APIA Leichhardt start Round 15 in second place after a 2-0 win over Sutherland Sharks took them three points clear of third-placed Sydney FC – though they remain nine points behind leaders Blacktown City.
Michael Trajkovski scored both goals for APIA as they won consecutive matches for the first time since the opening fortnight of the season, a run they should be confident of stretching into a third week as they prepare to welcome Sydney United to Lambert Park.
The visitors are four points adrift at the bottom of the table ahead of Sunday afternoon’s match, having lost 3-0 to Wollongong Wolves in Round 14.
After going three matches without a defeat in May, Sydney United have now lost their last two matches while the teams directly above them continue to pick up points. They can only hope for a repeat of their Round 4 clash with APIA, a 1-0 win which accounts for one of their two victories in 2019.
Sydney Olympic v Hakoah Sydney City East, 1.45pm at Belmore Sports Ground
A 1-1 draw with Blacktown City in Round 14 kept Sydney Olympic in sixth place ahead of this week’s match against Hakoah Sydney City East.
Having won just once in their last seven games, Olympic will know the importance of taking maximum points from a fixture against eleventh-placed Hakoah.
Still, the visitors won’t be rolling over: Hakoah are now four points clear of last-placed Sydney United following an impressive 3-2 win over Rockdale City Suns last weekend, with goals coming from Zachary Sapsford and Hesan Soufi giving them just their third win of the season.
Hakaoh sit eight points off the top five, and remain an unpredictable opponent as they look to close the gap on the teams above them.
-By Max Grieve