The 2019 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 20s moves into Round 16 with three sides sitting level on points behind runaway leaders Blacktown City, though the gap on the team at the top is beginning to narrow.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers, Sydney United, Sydney Olympic and Hakoah are back in action after washouts last weekend, with the Tigers travelling to Rockdale in a potentially decisive clash between third and fourth. Blacktown host sixth-placed Manly United in this week’s Match of the Round, while second-placed Sydney will hope to hold off APIA and Rockdale below them when they take on Mt Druitt at Lambert Park on Saturday.
Match of the Round: Blacktown City v Manly United, Sunday 1pm at Lily Homes Stadium
Blacktown City have won just once in their last four matches, a run which hardly seems disastrous given they are currently ten points out in front at the top of the table.
Still, the gap could be cut to seven points should APIA win their game in hand, which should give Blacktown the motivation they need to get past Manly United on Sunday afternoon.
Manly United arrive at Lily Homes Stadium on the back of a 3-1 win over Marconi Stallions in Round 15, with goals courtesy of Maximilian Rogers, Tallon Zahra and Jordan Segreto taking their side to within a point of fifth place.
The visitors have one of the leakiest defences of the teams pushing for the finals places, and will need to tighten up at the back if they harbour any hope of earning a result on Sunday.
Sydney FC v Mt Druitt Town Rangers, 5pm at Lambert Park
Jaiden Kucharski scored twice at Win Stadium to give Sydney FC a 2-1 win over Wollongong Wolves last weekend, a result which kept the Sky Blues level with APIA and Rockdale behind Blacktown City, but in second place on goal difference.
Sydney FC have lost just once in their last nine matches and will be eager to keep that run going ahead of a clash against Blacktown City looming in Round 17. This week they welcome Mt Druitt to Lambert Park, with the Rangers travelling east following an extraordinary 7-5 loss to Rockdale last Saturday.
Jordan Gomez scored a hattrick for his side but it wasn’t enough as Mt Druitt fell behind, equalised, then went in front before conceding three goals in the last fifteen minutes of the match.
Mt Druitt’s last win came six weeks ago at this same ground, when they defeated APIA Leichhardt 1-0 courtesy of an own-goal from the hosts. The Rangers currently sit six points adrift of fifth-placed Sutherland Sharks.
Rockdale City Suns v APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 1pm at Ilinden Sports Centre
Rockdale conceded five goals against Mt Druitt last weekend but scored seven of their own to come away from Popondetta with one of the most spectacular victories of the season.
The win at Mt Druitt gave Rockdale their first win in four weeks, a much-needed result in the context of their season. Rockdale looked to be slipping out of the five but are now back level with Sydney FC and this weekend’s opponents APIA Leichhardt, ten points behind Blacktown City.
APIA arrive at Ilinden Sports Centre after an interrupted gameweek saw their Round 15 match against Sydney United 58 cancelled due to heavy rain.
The Tigers dropped behind Sydney FC on goal difference, but could find themselves clear in second place and only seven points off top spot should they take full advantage of their game in hand.
A win at Rockdale on Sunday afternoon, while not crucial, could well set APIA on their way as they look to reel in Blacktown City at the top of the table.
Wollongong Wolves v Sydney Olympic, 1pm at Win Stadium
Wollongong Wolves have only once managed to string two wins together this season; a level of inconsistency which has seen them fall to eighth place after a promising start to the season.
The Wolves were beaten 2-1 by Sydney FC here last weekend, with Jacob Gjorsevki getting on the scoresheet for the visitors in their fifth loss in seven matches.
Yet there’s still plenty of reason for hope for Wollongong, sitting just four points behind fifth-placed Sutherland Sharks at the start of Round 16. This weekend, the Wolves will turn their attentions to Sydney Olympic, who are three points ahead of their hosts in seventh place.
Olympic did not play last weekend after their Round 15 match against Hakoah Sydney City East was washed out, but can take confidence into this one after their 1-0 defeat of Wollongong at Belmore Sports Ground earlier in the season.
Hakoah Sydney City East v Marconi Stallions, 3pm at Hensley Athletic Field
Hakoah Sydney City East should be raring to go against Marconi Stallions on Sunday afternoon, having gone a week without a match after their Round 15 clash with Sydney Olympic was washed out.
Hakoah remain four points ahead of last-placed Sydney United 58; their last result a 3-2 win over Rockdale which snapped a three-match losing streak. They could find themselves level with tenth-placed Mt Druitt should results go their way on Sunday, potentially opening the door to a late run at the finals.
Their opponents this weekend, Marconi, travel to Hensley Athletic Field after a 3-1 defeat to Manly United in which Lachlan Sepping scored the Stallions’ only goal.
Marconi have struggled for consistency in recent weeks, and have dropped to ninth place after winning only two of their previous seven matches. This fixture ended in a 3-3 draw when these sides met at Marconi Stadium in April.
Sydney United 58 v Sutherland Sharks, 3pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
Sydney United 58 will stay at the bottom of the table for another week regardless of the result against Sutherland Sharks on Sunday afternoon, but have room to improve with a game in hand.
Heavy rain across Sydney saw United’s match against APIA Leichhardt Tigers called off last weekend, keeping them four points adrift of Hakoah Sydney City East (whose match was also cancelled).
With two defeats preceding United’s washout in Round 15, there must surely be concern at Sydney United Sports Centre ahead of this week’s visit of Sutherland Sharks, who will be on the hunt for nothing less than three points after a recent drop in form.
Sutherland drew 1-1 with Blacktown City last weekend; a good result against the competition’s best side but one which left them clinging to their place in the top five.
The Sharks are just one point ahead of Manly United and Sydney Olympic (with a game in hand) in sixth and seventh place respectively. With just two wins in their last six, they’ll need to improve soon if they’re to hold off the teams below them.
-By Max Grieve