Round 18 of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 20s competition saw Blacktown City move a point closer to the premiership title, while the race for the four spots below them in the finals remains wide open.
Just five points separate second-placed Rockdale from APIA in sixth at the end of the round, with Sutherland Sharks, Sydney FC and Sydney Olympic filling out the five.
Rockdale moved up after a win over the Sky Blues on Saturday afternoon, while Marconi missed an opportunity to stake their claim for fifth after falling to a defeat at Sutherland.
Sutherland Sharks 1-0 Marconi Stallions, 4.30pm at Seymour Shaw
Sutherland Sharks moved into third place – and, more importantly, pushed five points in front of sixth-placed APIA Leichhardt – following a tight 1-0 win over Marconi on Saturday afternoon.
The Stallions travelled to Seymour Shaw on the hunt for a win that might have taken them to the edge of the finals places, but instead Marconi sit five points off fifth, with only four rounds left to play.
The 0-0 scoreline at the break was reflective of a particularly close matchup, but an own goal from James Baldacchino ten minutes after the restart settled the match in the hosts’ favour.
Sutherland have now won three matches in a row, and will now turn their attention to Friday’s clash with second-placed Sydney FC. Marconi, meanwhile, will have a week off to collect themselves before facing Mt Druitt Town Rangers at home in a fortnight’s time.
Sydney FC 0-1 Rockdale City Suns, 5pm at Lambert Park
A goal from James Cakovski gave Rockdale a crucial win against Sydney FC in Round 18; one which saw them switch places with the team they defeated at Lambert Park on Saturday afternoon.
The game was scoreless until the hour mark when Rockdale broke down the right flank before a ball inside found Cakovski, who swept his shot past the goalkeeper to give his side a lead that they’d hold until full time.
Sydney FC have slipped to fourth after their first defeat in five matches, though remain two points clear of fifth-placed Olympic. Their next game is against another top-five contender in Sutherland Sharks, with the two sides set to meet at Valentine Sports Park on Friday night.
Rockdale stretched their unbeaten run out to four weeks with their win over the Sky Blues, and will need to carry that form through to their next match, against Blacktown City, if they harbour a serious ambition to make second place their own.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers 3-2 Sydney United 58, 5pm at Popondetta Park
Mt Druitt scored the odd goal in five to claim a much-needed win over Sydney United on Saturday afternoon; three points taking them up a place to eighth on the table.
Matthew Crosby and Aaron Avery were on the scoresheet for the hosts, while Ivan Bratjanscak and Marcus Bimbilovski were on hand for United as they fell to their fifth defeat in a row.
Mt Druitt are six points behind fifth-placed APIA Leichhardt with only four rounds remaining, meaning they will almost certainly need a perfect finish and slip-ups from several teams above them if they are to make the five.
It seems unlikely now, but the Rangers are setting themselves up for a strong finish, with two wins from their last two matches, and a game against Marconi Stallions to come.
Sydney United, for their part, remain rock bottom of the ladder, seven points adrift but with a game in hand against APIA to play in a week-and-a-half.
Manly United 0-1 Sydney Olympic, 1pm at Cromer Park No 1
Manly United’s third loss in as many weeks has all but totalled their chances of making the top five; a harsh reality for the side from Cromer Park.
Manly were on the brink of breaking into the top five little over a month ago, but are now in tenth place after a 1-0 defeat to Sydney Olympic on the weekend, and sit seven points off fifth place.
A dismal pass across the backline let Manly in on goal just four minutes after the halftime break, gifting the visitors a slender lead.
With their second win in a row Sydney Olympic are now up into fifth place – two points clear of APIA Leichhardt, though the Tigers have a game in hand.
Blacktown City 1-1 APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 1pm at Lily Homes Stadium
Blacktown City continue to stumble towards the finish line; dropping points for the fourth time in five weeks while maintaining a healthy advantage at the top of the table.
Blacktown remain seven points clear of second-placed Rockdale City Suns but there will be concern at Lilys as the competition leaders were held to another draw, this week by APIA Leichhardt.
The hosts opened the scoring but were pegged back on Sunday afternoon, with the Tigers determined to keep in touch with fifth-placed Sydney Olympic.
APIA sit two points behind Olympic in sixth, though have a game in hand to play against Sydney United following a break next weekend.
Wollongong Wolves 3-1 Hakoah City Sydney East, 1pm at Win Stadium
Wollongong Wolves bounced back from a disappointing loss to Mt Druitt last weekend to record a comfortable win over Hakoah City Sydney East on Sunday afternoon, with goals from Jason Pappas, Stefan Dimoski and Tatsuki Nagatsuka.
Still, the Wolves sit ninth, one place higher than last week but still six points behind fifth-placed Sydney Olympic.
Mitchell Knight was on the scoresheet for Hakoah, who lost their third match in four weeks but remain seven points clear of the wooden spoon.
-By Max Grieve