Round 24 of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s has plenty of important football on offer as the title winners and relegation-bound teams edge closer to confirmation.
Here’s the rundown for this weekend.
Bulls FC Academy v Sydney Olympic FC
3:00 pm, Saturday 15 July, Sydney United Sports Centre
Bulls FC Academy take on Sydney Olympic on Saturday afternoon at Sydney United Sports Centre in a crunch clash for the teams.
The Bulls went down 4-1 to St George last weekend in another tough defeat that kept them in last.
Seven points from potential safety, and with seven matches to play, each week it becomes more and more imperative the side earn some points.
Round 23 saw the return of a couple of the team’s A-League Men’s stars including exciting attacker Jed Drew.
Coach Zeljko Kalac will hope some added quality helps push his team back up the table.
Olympic couldn’t be separated with NWS Spirit last weekend drawing 0-0.
It leaves them in 11th on the table but if they win this Saturday, they could move up to 10th.
Sydney Olympic managed to edge out the Bulls when they met earlier in the season with a 1-0 victory.
It’s set to be close between these sides on the weekend making it an interesting match in round 23.
APIA Leichhardt FC v Central Coast Mariners FC
5:45 pm, Saturday 15 July, Lambert Park
APIA Leichhardt continue their premiership charge up against an in-form Central Coast Mariners on Saturday at Lambert Park.
APIA’s win against Western Sydney Wanderers kept them eight points clear at the top of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s ladder.
The side got up with a narrow 2-1 win courtesy of goals from Jack Armson and Jack Stewart.
Stewart has had a defining impact since his arrival at APIA at the start of the year, scoring 12 goals and being a key part of the front line.
The Mariners are flying at the moment as well unbeaten in the last four and sitting in seventh.
Abbas Saad’s team drew 2-2 with Wollongong Wolves in round 23 keeping them just seven points away from fourth.
Central Coast have proven a challenge for the top sides this year and gave APIA a tough time when they met in round nine but went down 2-1.
This is one of the games of the round with two of the form teams in the competition in action.
Sutherland Sharks FC v Blacktown City FC
6:30 pm, Saturday 15 July, Seymour Shaw
Sutherland Sharks take on Blacktown City at Seymour Shaw on Saturday night eager to stop their slide towards the bottom of the table.
The Sharks went down to a late 2-1 defeat against Sydney United 58 which saw them drop down to 12th.
While it was another defeat, it ended a three-game scoreless streak for Sutherland.
City’s form just keeps getting better on the other hand, as they recorded their fifth victory in a row getting up 3-0 against Sydney FC last Sunday.
Experienced striker Travis Major starred for the powerhouses as they went just three points behind third.
Blacktown are the form side of the competition and will be eager to carry that on this weekend against a Sutherland team they beat earlier in the season.
Mark Crittenden’s team got up 2-0 in round nine with two goals soon after halftime doing the damage.
With Sutherland under pressure for results, Blacktown’s visit will be a stern test on Saturday.
St George City FA v Sydney FC
7:00 pm, Saturday 15 July, Penshurst Park
St George City face Sydney FC on Saturday night in an exciting game in the battle for the best of the rest.
The hosts sit in fifth coming into this one while Sydney are a place below and just two points behind.
City are on a four-game unbeaten run currently and most recently battered Bulls FC Academy 4-1.
They shared the goals around with Maki Petratos, Nathan Roberts, Paolo Mitry and Presly Ortiz all scoring.
However, for Petratos, it was the attacker’s first goal since round 17 taking his tally to seven for 2023.
St George remain in the conversation for a place higher up the table, only seven away from second.
Sydney were left disappointed last weekend as they were swatted aside 3-0 by Blacktown City.
Despite starting the game well, the side struggled to defend balls into the box, so they will need to rectify that against St George on Saturday night.
There was drama when these teams met earlier in the season as St George gave up a two-goal in the final four minutes to share the points with Sydney.
Manly United FC v Mount Druitt Town Rangers FC
7:00 pm, Saturday 15 July, Popondetta Park
Manly United and Mount Druitt Town Rangers face off in a nail-biting relegation six-pointer at Popondetta Park on Saturday night.
A victory for Manly would see the side push comprehensively away from the battle at the bottom and leave the Rangers to fight it out with the two teams below them.
United stole a vital point against front-runners Marconi in round 23 equalising in stoppage time.
Harry McCarthy scored the goal for United which pushed them seven points clear of potential relegation.
Mount Druitt will not come into this one with any momentum contrastingly, losing their fifth successive game over the weekend.
The team went down 1-0 against Rockdale Ilinden which has left them just two points away from dropping into the relegation qualification slot.
United performed well against Mount Druitt earlier in the season with a convincing 2-0 victory.
This match has significant implications for the relegation battle making it one of the games of the round.
Marconi Stallions FC v Western Sydney Wanderers FC
7:00 pm, Saturday 15 July, Fairfield Showground
Western Sydney Wanderers travel to Fairfield Showground on Saturday with a chance to climb out of the relegation zone if they beat Marconi.
The Wanderers have been fighting bravely in recent weeks giving every team a stern battle but the results haven’t been falling their way.
In round 23, they narrowly went down 2-1 to league-leaders APIA Leichhardt despite going into the break level.
With Mount Druitt Town Rangers on a poor losing streak a place ahead of them, a single victory would do wonders for Andrew Christiansen’s team.
The Stallions have been faltering in recent weeks as a four-game winless run has taken them ten points away from the summit.
They were denied three points by a stoppage-time equaliser against Manly United in round 23 which saw them drop to third on the table.
Western Sydney couldn’t stop Marconi earlier in the season as they went down in a resounding 4-0 loss.
However, with the Stallions struggling at the moment, now could be the perfect time for the Wanderers to cause a valuable upset.
The Stallions will be using Fairfield Showground for several of its matches due to Marconi Stadium being used as the training ground for the Colombian Women’s National Team for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Sydney United 58 FC v Rockdale Ilinden FC
3:00 pm, Sunday 16 July, Sydney United Sports Centre
Sydney United go head-to-head with Rockdale Ilinden in a battle between two NPL NSW Men’s powerhouses with contrasting 2023 seasons.
Sydney United snagged a last-minute winner against Sutherland Sharks in what was their first win since round 18.
It was an important result for United who had previously been slipping towards the bottom of the table.
The ever-reliable Glen Trifiro gave his team the lead heading into halftime, but the scores were set level with nine minutes to play.
Super-sub Alessandro Lacalandra stepped up and nailed in the winner on the stroke of fulltime.
Rockdale Ilinden recovered from their two-game winless run edging past Mount Druitt Town Rangers 1-0.
Star signing Iain Ramsay scored his first goal in Rockdale colours early on in the fixture to win the points.
Ilinden have now made themselves the closest challengers to APIA at the top, eight points away from the summit.
They need to claim the points this weekend if they want any chance of staying in the title race.
Rockdale won against United earlier in the season securing a 3-1 result in a drama-filled matchup.
Wollongong Wolves FC v NWS Spirit FC
3:00 pm, Sunday 16 July, WIN Stadium
Wollongong Wolves host NWS Spirit at WIN Stadium on Sunday with the side eager to get their momentum back in the competition.
The Wolves failed to win for the second game in a row as they fought back to draw 2-2 with Central Coast Mariners last weekend.
Takumi Ofuka scored while Jake Trew also found the net with his eighth of 2023.
A win on Sunday would take David Carney’s team level on points with Spirit and closer to the top half of the table.
Spirit couldn’t make three wins in a row as they drew 0-0 with Sydney Olympic in round 23.
It leaves David Perkovic’s men in eighth but only eight points off fourth on the table.
The Wolves will still be reeling from their last encounter with Spirit which saw them collapse in the final moments to shockingly lose the game 5-4 despite their comfortable lead.
Given the context of that earlier game, there is no doubt this will be a tense clash between two teams fighting it out in the middle of the table.
Preview by Timothy Gibson, on Twitter @Timg123_