Sutherland Sharks are still out in front with one half of the NPL NSW Men’s 20’s season over but the visit of Blacktown City this Saturday could throw a much-needed curve ball into the title race for the remaining 11 rounds.
Match of the Round
Sydney United 58 v Sydney Olympic, Saturday 5.30pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
Sydney United 58 are hoping to bring a horror run of form to an end when rivals Sydney Olympic arrive at Edensor Park on Saturday evening.
The Reds’ are currently on the longest losing streak of the season after going down 2-1 to Manly United last weekend and will be desperate to avoid what would be a seventh straight defeat should they fall to Olympic at home. United 58’s string of poor results has seen the side drop into ninth position on the ladder and could be overtaken by the visitors with another loss at Sydney United Sports Centre.
Olympic will smell blood in the water upon their arrival and should be bolstered by a series of uplifting performances over the past month having spent the majority of the campaign on the bottom of the table.
The Blues have taken points off high-flying Wollongong Wolves, Sydney FC and inflicted a huge upset victory over frontrunners Sutherland Sharks in the past three weeks and could further rejuvenate their finals hopes with a win over United 58.
Sydney FC v Rockdale City Suns, 1.00pm at Lambert Park
Sydney FC will be heavy favourites for their encounter with bottom-placed Rockdale City Suns when the pair clash at Lambert Park on Saturday evening.
The Sky Blues enter the match in third position and have been one of the most entertaining and expansive outfits in the opening half of the season having scored 29 goals in 10 matches. Leading the charge for Sydney has been top scorer Hamish Lamberton, who clinched his 12th goal of the season in last Saturday’s 4-4 draw with Blacktown City, while Jordan Swibel has also made a huge contribution with nine goals.
Sydney are also unbeaten since their round two fixture against Sutherland, meaning the visiting Rockdale side will have to muster a massive performance in order to halt the league’s top scorers. The Suns have struggled for attacking returns during their inconsistent campaign, netting just 10 goals and claiming only two victories.
However the sole glimmer of hope for the visitors might reside in Sydney’s penchant for defensive lapses – only Rockdale themselves have a poorer defensive record than the Sky Blues, and the desperate Suns will no doubt be hoping to exploit that as they aim to reignite their faltering season.
Sutherland Sharks v Blacktown City, 4.30pm at Seymour Shaw
Sutherland Sharks will face the sternest test of their title defence so far when second-placed Blacktown City travel to Seymour Shaw on Saturday afternoon.
Aside from a shock 2-1 defeat to Sydney Olympic last fortnight the defending champions have swept all before them in the campaign’s first half and will be looking to enter the second half of the season with a statement victory at home.
Nick Dimovski’s side boast an immense range of attacking talent across the roster but James Temelkovski and Deren O’Brien (seven and five goals respectively) have emerged as key men for the Sharks and will need to be guarded carefully by the visiting Blacktown.
City prepared for their biggest match of the season by drawing 4-4 with fellow championship contenders Sydney FC last Saturday in a result that both highlighted the offensive potential of the side but also a lack of pragmatism after squandering a two-goal advantage in the final 10 minutes. John Carnevale’s men will have been well drilled for the challenge of Sutherland during the week and should be hugely motivated to claim a game-changing victory ahead of the last 11 rounds.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles v Manly United, 5.00pm at Bonnyrigg Sports Club
Two of the competition’s improving sides face off at Bonnyrigg Sports Club on Saturday night with Bonnyrigg White Eagles hosting Manly United.
Both teams have come roaring back into the top five complexion in recent weeks and sit seventh and eighth respectively ahead of the contest, with a win for either side likely moving them within a few points of fifth position at the end of the round.
The hosts Bonnyrigg will be in a buoyant mood after a great 1-0 victory over APIA Leichhardt last weekend, with the White Eagles keeping their third clean sheet from their last five against the Tigers. After conceding five against Sydney FC, Hamish Brown’s side have been the best defensive outfit in the competition – conceding just the one goal in defeats to Sutherland and Hakoah Sydney City East.
Bonnyrigg’s improved discipline and organization should provide visitors Manly with a big test – although United themselves will be in a high spirits after claiming back to back victories for the first time this campaign following a 2-1 win over Sydney United 58 last Saturday.
Hakoah Sydney City East v APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 1.00pm at Hensley Athletic Field
Hakoah Sydney City East can finish the first half of the regular season comfortably in the top five should they beat APIA Leichhardt Tigers in Sunday afternoon’s meeting at Hensley Athletic Field.
After propping up the table for the first four rounds, Hakoah clinched fourth on the ladder last round with a 3-2 win over Rockdale City Suns and have raised eyebrows around the league with a series of excellent performances.
Paul Hubbard’s side have won five of their last six and have kept three clean sheets during that time, proving themselves tricky customers no matter the opposition.
Opponents APIA Leichhardt are yet to find any consistency so far this season and have lost two matches in a row coming into the contest with Hakoah. With a host of sides improving around them in the table, the Tigers will need to find a confidence building victory soon to remind last year’s Grand Finalists of their quality.
Wollongong Wolves v Marconi Stallions, 1.00pm at WIN Stadium
Wollongong Wolves conclude round 11 with a home fixture against Marconi Stallions at WIN Stadium on Sunday.
The Wolves currently reside in fifth position but after claiming just two wins from their last five the South Coast outfit have become at risk of slipping out of the top five.
The visit of Marconi offers a good chance for Wollongong to begin building momentum for the second half of the season with the tenth-placed Stallions coming into the affair having lost four out of their past five. Tory Musumeci has been in excellent form this campaign for the Wolves with seven goals and could receive more chances to fire his side to their fifth victory of the season.
-By Jacob Windon