There could be a new leader at the end of Round 20 of the 2019 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 20s, with just two points now separating Blacktown City from second-placed Sutherland.
APIA and Rockdale will be looking to seal their places in the top five with matches against Sydney FC and Manly United respectively, while at the other end of the table Sydney United will be out to snap a seven-match losing streak when they take on Hakoah Sydney City East at Hensley Athletic Field.
Match of the Round: Sutherland Sharks v Mt Druitt Town Rangers, Saturday 4.30pm at Seymour Shaw
Sutherland would move top of the table – albeit temporarily – with a win over Mt Druitt on Saturday afternoon, with Blacktown City not playing until Sunday.
Overhauling Blacktown at the top seemed a near impossibility only a few months ago, yet Sutherland’s steady form – including a 2-0 win over Wollongong Wolves last weekend – combined with the leaders’ inconsistency has narrowed the gap in recent weeks.
The Sharks begin Round 20 just two points behind Blacktown, having played one game more.
Mt Druitt travel to Seymour Shaw on the back of a 3-1 win over Marconi; Riley Ellem and Ali Dulleh scoring for the Rangers as they won for the third time in a row.
They remain seven points off fifth, and would need to win their last three games while hoping for slips from Sydney Olympic and Rockdale above them to stand any chance of finals. It seems an unlikely prospect.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers v Sydney FC, 5pm at Lambert Park
APIA Leichhardt and Sydney FC both appear set for the finals in fourth and third places respectively with only a few rounds remaining, though that relative comfort shouldn’t mean a dull match at Lambert Park on Saturday afternoon.
APIA sit four points in front of sixth-placed Sydney Olympic and four points behind Sydney FC, albeit having played two games fewer than the Sky Blues.
The Tigers beat Olympic 2-0 at Lambert Park last weekend; goals from Zeke Prisuda and Jacob Ritchie helping their side hold off Rockdale City Suns for another week. The goal difference between APIA and Rockdale is now just one in the Tigers’ favour.
Sydney FC return to more familiar territory after a 2-0 win over Sydney United at Sydney United Sports Centre last weekend, a result which sealed their place in the top five. They could yet find themselves finishing the season in fifth place, however, as APIA and Rockdale below them both have two games in hand on the Sky Blues.
Manly United v Rockdale City Suns, 1pm at Cromer Park
Manly United return to Cromer Park in Round 20 with little but pride to play for as the season draws to a close; this week welcoming Rockdale City Suns for a 1pm kickoff.
Manly nicked a 1-1 draw with Hakoah Sydney City East last weekend; a second-half goal from Lachlan McGrath helping to end a run of three straight defeats which saw United drop out of finals contention weeks ago.
They come into this week’s match against Rockdale in ninth place, while their visitors sit fifth.
Rockdale could seal their place in the top five with a win on Sunday afternoon, a result they appear more than capable of achieving. They are unbeaten in five matches leading up to their trip to Manly, a run which includes last week’s 0-0 draw with Blacktown City.
Blacktown City FC v Wollongong Wolves, 1pm at Lily Homes Stadium
Blacktown City could find themselves knocked off the top of the table for the first time in months come kickoff against Wollongong Wolves on Sunday afternoon, with Sutherland Sharks playing their Round 20 match on Saturday.
The leaders have won only one of their last six matches; dismal form for would-be Premiers.
Blacktown have three games still to play but will need to start taking their chances if they are to hold off the Sharks and finish the regular season in first place. Certainly, they will need to do better than last week, when they were held to a 0-0 draw by a nine-man Rockdale City Suns.
Wollongong, meanwhile, come into this match with considerably less on the line. The Wolves travel to Lily Homes Stadium in tenth place following a 2-0 defeat to Sutherland last weekend, a result which left them ten points off fifth.
Sydney Olympic v Marconi Stallions, 1.45pm at Belmore Sports Ground
Sydney Olympic and Marconi Stallions might have hoped a place in the finals would be on the line in this match, but a series of poor results in recent weeks has seen both teams slip away in the race for fifth spot.
Olympic return to Belmore on the back of a 2-0 defeat to APIA Leichhardt Tigers in Round 19; their third loss in five games – including two in a row against fellow finals contenders – almost certainly ending any chance of sneaking into the top five.
Marconi suffered a similarly terminal blow to their finals hopes last weekend, going down 3-1 to Mt Druitt on Saturday afternoon.
The Stallions are nine points behind Rockdale City Suns heading into Round 20, and could move within two points of Olympic with a win here. A loss could see Marconi drop as far as tenth depending on results elsewhere.
Hakoah Sydney City East v Sydney United 58 FC, 3pm at Hensley Athletic Field
Eleventh plays twelfth as Hakoah Sydney City East welcome Sydney United 58 to Hensley Athletic Field on Sunday afternoon.
Hakoah managed a 1-1 draw with Manly United in Round 19, Jay Hirschowitz opening the scoring in the first half only for Manly to equalise after the break.
Sydney United 58, for their part, head to Hensley with a seven-match losing streak in tow; a run they will be desperate to end.
There can be few better opportunities for the lowest-placed side in the competition than against the team directly above them.