Round 22 of the National Premier Leagues NSW produced some tense football as the competition edges towards its conclusion.
Expect more of the same in round 23 as more valuable points are on the line.
Central Coast Mariners FC v Wollongong Wolves FC
3:00 pm, Saturday 8 July, Pluim Park
Wollongong Wolves travel to Central Coast Mariners at Pluim Park on Saturday seeking to rectify a disappointing defeat in round 22.
The Wolves went down 2-1 to St George City which ended a three-game unbeaten run for the team.
David Carney’s team went down to ninth after that but remain only four points away from the top half of the table.
Central Coast made it three wins on the bounce getting past Mount Druitt Town Rangers 2-1 last Saturday.
Aydan Hammond gave the visitors an early lead before Aidan Milicevic re-established their advantage with 10 minutes to go.
Hammond is having his best run of the season with six goals in his last six matches for the Mariners.
Moving up to seventh, the Mariners sit five points away from fourth heading into this weekend.
Abbas Saad’s team have lost just twice after round nine, representing a stark improvement for the team since those early weeks.
With these teams battling it out for a place higher up the league, they’ll both be up for this clash.
NWS Spirit FC v Sydney Olympic FC
5:30 pm, Saturday 8 July, Christie Park
NWS Spirit face a telling fixture up against Sydney Olympic on Saturday at Christie Park.
Spirit have found their groove in recent weeks securing some impressive results; most recently a 2-0 victory against Manly United in round 22.
First-half goals from Kota Odakura and Mitchell Davidson secured the points for David Perkovic’s team, pushing them into eighth.
Another three points this weekend would bring the top five into sight meaning a strong finish to 2023 is on the cards for the newly-promoted team.
Olympic struggled to defeat yet again this season as they were dispatched 3-1 by Blacktown City last Saturday.
They found themselves 3-0 down by the 51st minute, but Roy O’Donovan’s goal later on was a positive for the team.
It was the former A-League Men’s striker’s 12th of the season as he continues to prove his value to Labinot Haliti’s side.
Olympic got the points against Spirit earlier in the season with a 2-0 win in round eight.
With the still reigning champions loitering only seven points away from relegation, three points on Saturday is important.
APIA Leichhardt FC v Western Sydney Wanderers FC
5:45 pm, Saturday 8 July, Lambert Park
APIA Leichhardt host Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday at Lambert Park, with the potential to take another huge step towards title glory.
APIA shot to eight points clear at the top of the competition following two crucial victories in the past week.
The side edged past Bulls FC Academy 2-1 before downing Mount Druitt Town Rangers by the same scoreline.
It’s all in their hands now as they head into the final eight games and another win on Saturday would draw them ever closer to confirming top spot.
The Wanderers produced one of the matches of the round with a 3-3 draw with Rockdale Ilinden in round 23.
Nicolas Milanovic and Nathanael Blair were the goalscorers for Western Sydney as they moved just a couple of points away from safety.
However, Andrew Christiansen’s team face four tough away matches in a row starting with APIA this weekend, in a potentially defining run for the side.
The Wanderers have proven they are no easy opponent for any team and will be desperate for the points against APIA to potentially get out of the relegation zone.
St George City FA v Bulls FC Academy
7:00 pm, Saturday 8 July, Penshurst Park
St George City take on Bulls FC Academy at Penshurst Park on Saturday seeking to make it back-to-back wins for the first time since round 18.
City saw out a 2-1 win against Wollongong Wolves last Friday night, with Presley Ortiz starring for the side firing home the opener.
The talented striker now has six goals for the season, scoring in his past two games heading into this weekend.
St George could jump up to fourth from six with a win, with the two teams above them in action against each other.
Bulls FC Academy were dealt another disappointing blow giving up a lead against APIA Leichhardt to go down 2-1.
The side found themselves 1-0 up midway through the first half, but they couldn’t hold on to secure some vital points.
The Bulls remain nine points away from safety needing to pick up victories in the next couple of weeks to keep the relegation battle alive.
There’s a lot riding on this game for the Bulls but St George will be up for it, pursuing a finish high up the table by season’s end.
Manly United FC v Marconi Stallions FC
7:15 pm, Saturday 8 July, Cromer Park
Manly United face Marconi Stallions at Cromer Park on Saturday night hoping to steer further clear of relegation.
Two tough results in a row have moved the drop zone a little too close for comfort heading into this weekend.
Most recently, United went down 2-0 to NWS Spirit conceding twice in the first half an hour.
The Stallions failed to win for the second week running as the title begins to slip away from Peter Tsekenis’ men.
They were held to a 0-0 draw with Sutherland Sharks in round 22 which has seen them fall to eight points below first place.
It’s been a frustrating run of three without a win for Marconi setting up a high-stakes clash against United this weekend.
Marconi got the points when these sides met in round eight with a 3-1 victory, so they’ll be eager to do that again to keep their slender title hopes alive.
This is a crucial game for both teams with the pressure on to keep their respective ambitions at the fore.
Rockdale Ilinden FC v Mount Druitt Town Rangers FC
3:00 pm, Sunday 9 July, Rockdale Ilinden Sports Centre
Rockdale Ilinden look to get back to winning ways against a struggling Mount Druitt Town Rangers on Sunday afternoon at Rockdale Ilinden Sports Centre.
Ilinden needed to fight back from two goals down to rescue a point against Western Sydney Wanderers last Saturday night.
The team were 2-0 down by the 19th minute but managed to get into the sheds with a 3-2 deficit.
Alec Urosevski equalised in the 76th minute, but his side were unable to snatch all three points.
Coach Paul Dee will also have to deal with the suspension of new-signing Diego Celis who was sent off in stoppage time.
Attacker Bai Antoniou scored Rockdale’s first last Saturday and will be one to watch out for on Sunday.
The team are now eight points away from the summit making a victory a must this weekend.
Mount Druitt are also in need of three points following a series of narrow defeats in recent weeks.
Four successive defeats have dragged the Rangers back into the battle at the bottom now just two clear of Western Sydney Wanderers in the relegation qualification spot.
Rockdale were convincing winners the last time these teams met getting up 3-0 earlier this campaign.
Sydney United 58 FC v Sutherland Sharks FC
3:00 pm, Sunday 9 July, Sydney United Sports Centre
Sydney United 58 play Sutherland Sharks at Sydney United Sports Centre on Sunday in a crucial game for both teams.
United extended their winless run in the competition to four games as they were edged out 1-0 by Sydney FC in round 22.
Miro Vlastelica’s team have dropped down to 10th on the table after that and would drop even lower if they lose again this weekend.
The Sharks are in a similar rut themselves with wins hard to come by for the Shire outfit.
Sutherland shared the points with Marconi last weekend in a tense 0-0 draw.
While shy of wins, the side’s scorelines have been close across this period with narrow defeats to Rockdale and APIA in the two rounds before the Marconi game.
However, the team’s goalscoring troubles have been at the forefront scoring just 14 goals from their 22 matches.
They’ll be eager to get back to winning ways against a struggling United team.
These teams couldn’t be separated in round eight with a 0-0 stalemate and it will likely be tight again on Sunday.
Blacktown City FC v Sydney FC
3:00 pm, Sunday 9 July, Landen Stadium
Blacktown City take on Sydney FC at Landen Stadium on Sunday pursuing their fifth victory in a row.
The side downed Sydney Olympic 3-1 last weekend with Travis Major, Jak O’Brien and Charles Mendy all finding the net.
Four successive wins have kept City just about in touch with the top sides in the competition, now only five points away from second place.
Sydney FC have also started to pick up form again following their 1-0 win against Sydney United 58 last Friday night.
Cameron Fong scored for the young Sky Blues just after the hour mark to keep the team in fifth.
Sydney FC are only one point behind Blacktown in the place ahead, however, the teams immediately below them are in touching distance.
It means that positions in the top places are still up for grabs heading into the final few games.
Jimmy van Weeren’s team edged out Blacktown earlier in the season with a 1-0 victory.
With so little between these sides in 2023, this is an exciting game and one not to miss in round 23.
Preview by Timothy Gibson, on Twitter @Timg123_