Sutherland Sharks must navigate the challenge of Wollongong Wolves on Sunday as the leaders look to take another step towards the premiership, while second-placed Blacktown City maintain their pursuit against Manly United.
Match of the Round
Sydney FC v Hakoah Sydney City East, Saturday 5pm at Lambert Park
Sydney FC know only three points will keep them in the title race when they welcome Hakoah Sydney City East to Lambert Park on Saturday evening.
The Sky Blues currently look outsiders for the title following a damaging 2-1 loss to Sydney United 58 last Sunday, a defeat that widened the gap to leaders Sutherland to six points.
Sydney could still be in with a sniff if they defeat the leaders in their round 20 fixture but first Rob Stanton’s side must avoid a slip up against a canny Hakoah side who are chasing a spot in the top five.
Hakoah Sydney City East trail fifth-placed Rockdale by a solitary point and have proven tough test for any side in the competition on their day as a round eight stalemate with the Sky Blues shows.
Connor Eldridge presents the central goal scoring danger for Hakoah with the forward notching his 10th strike of the season in last weekend’s 2-0 win over Wollongong, while golden boot leader John Iredale has been in superb form for Sydney FC with 15 goals in 12 matches.
Manly United v Blacktown City, 5.00pm at Cromer Park
Blacktown City are searching for a win to keep in touch with leaders Sutherland when John Carnevale’s side arrive at Cromer Park to battle Manly on Saturday afternoon.
City are two points behind the premiership frontrunners with four rounds remaining but are in the midst of a promising run of late season form having scored 14 goals and conceded one in their last four matches.
Blacktown skipper Mason Ireland has been at the forefront of the City cause this season with 12 goals, while Samuel Hamilton is also getting in on the action for Carnevale’s men with five in six since signing on from Sydney FC.
The fixture looks an ominous one for Manly who have struggled to back up their impressive premiership winning 2016 season and currently languish in 10th position. Only Bonnyrigg White Eagles (46 goals conceded) and Parramatta (53) hold worse defensive records than the Cromer Park outfit (43) who have been unable to garner any momentum in their defence of last campaign’s title.
City will look to draw one final mark against the underachieving Manly side as they look to remain in the premiership hunt.
Wollongong Wolves v Sutherland Sharks, 1.00pm at Albert Butler Memorial Park
Sutherland Sharks may begin to glance at the finish line if they can defeat Wollongong Wolves on Sunday afternoon with the leaders still leading the competition after eighteen rounds.
Nick Dimovski’s team overcame in-form Bonnyrigg 3-1 in last weekend’s match of the round – a result that should steady the Sutherland ship as they hone in on the first silverware of the league season.
The win over the White Eagles means the Sharks retain their two point lead over Blacktown City and the side appear to returning to their best form after suffering a few disappointing results in July, notably losses to Hakoah Sydney City East and APIA Leichhardt Tigers.
Opponents Wollongong lost 2-0 to Hakoah in round 19 and although the Wolves are out of finals contention the eleventh placed side might get some satisfaction from derailing Sutherland’s premiership bid.
Parramatta v Sydney United 58, 1.00pm at Melita Stadium
Parramatta are hoping to avoid a thirteenth straight defeat when Sydney United 58 come calling at Melita Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The embattled club is destined to finish bottom of the club championship ladder and with 20 goals conceded and zero scored in their last four matches the young Eagles will have to muster a strong performance to have a chance at snapping their winless run.
It will be a tall order to stop a United 58 side that come into the encounter on the back of a confidence boosting 2-1 win over Sydney FC last Sunday. It’s now two wins on the bounce for the seventh-placed Reds who have dragged themselves back into finals contention after a difficult run of mid-season defeats.
Sydney Olympic v APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 2.45pm at Belmore Sports Ground
Sydney Olympic host APIA Leichhardt Tigers at Belmore on Sunday with the Blues in desperate need of a win to get their finals charge back on track.
The Blues have been top half regulars for most of the season but three matches without a win has seen Olympic slide into ninth position with four rounds remaining – joining a cluster of sides scrapping for a spot in the top five.
APIA Leichhardt meanwhile returned to winning form thanks to a 6-0 defeat of Parramatta last Sunday, a win which gives the fourth-placed Tigers a little more room to breathe as they gear up for the home stretch.
Michael Urukalo’s side are three points ahead of sixth-placed Hakoah Sydney City East but with Bonnyrigg, Sydney United 58 and opponents Olympic all within striking distance of the Tigers the Lambert Park outfit will no doubt regard a win on Sunday against the struggling Blues as imperative.
Although Olympic have improved their defence at the tail end of the campaign and may yet play finals football this season, the firepower of APIA’s frontline – where Aedon Kyra and Jordan Morfitis have accounted for 19 of the Tigers’ 45 goals scored – could land a significant blow to the reigning champions.
Rockdale City Suns v Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 1.00pm at Ilinden Sports Centre
A crucial fixture in the make-up of the top five takes place at Ilinden Sports Centre on Sunday where in-form Rockdale City Suns host Bonnyrigg White Eagles in the final match of round nineteen.
The Suns entered the top five for the first time this season thanks to a 5-2 win over Manly last weekend and have won five of their last six matches with Michael Loupis, James Temelkovski and Jonathan Grozdanovski all making decisive contributions in recent weeks.
They’ll want to rub salt into the wounds of a Bonnyrigg outfit who saw their seven match winning streak unravel at the hands of Sutherland last Saturday.
With a single point separating the two sides at kick off and only four rounds remaining, the victor from this clash will take a significant amount of confidence into their final three fixtures as they look to secure a place in the finals.
– By Jacob Windon