Two key matches in the top five headline this weekend’s NPL NSW Men’s 20’s round 14 with leaders Sutherland Sharks at home to Hakoah Sydney City East and Sydney FC away to Wollongong Wolves.
Match of the Round
Sutherland Sharks v Hakoah Sydney City East, Saturday 4.30pm at Seymour Shaw
Competition Sutherland Sharks need to get back on the horse but will face a tricky test in doing so when they host Hakoah Sydney City East this Saturday to kick off round 14 at Seymour Shaw.
The 2017 Premiers suffered back to back defeats for the first time in 12 months following losses to Rockdale City Suns and Sydney FC and could relinquish their current three point advantage over Blacktown City should they lose again.
The Sharks will be buoyed by the return of several key players from injury and suspension however, and should be hugely determined and motivated to deliver a strong response after a frustrating fortnight.
Visitors Hakoah enter the clash in fifth position having suffered what was the side’s second loss in eight matches last weekend against Manly United. Outside their 4-1 loss to United last Saturday, Hakoah have been one of the most impressive performers throughout the season and continue to emerge as an unlikely outside challenger for the title.
But they’ll need to pick up a result against the competition benchmark away from home on Saturday in order to prove their mettle again, and further consolidate their position in the top five.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles v Blacktown City, 5.00pm at Bonnyrigg Sports Club
Blacktown City are searching for a win to keep the pressure on leaders Sutherland Sharks in their clash against Bonnyrigg White Eagles at Bonnyrigg Sports Club on Saturday.
John Carnevale’s side returned to form after back to back losses with a 1-0 triumph over Sydney United 58 last weekend, a result that saw City move within three points of Nick Dimovski’s Sharks.
Lachlan Rose clinched his eighth goal of the campaign in that match and will prove vital to City’s chances of escaping one of the toughest away trips on the NSW NPL Men’s calendar.
The traditionally arduous assignment of Bonnyrigg away will be made all the more challenging for the visitors by the stubborn form the White Eagles have captured over the past couple of months.
Hamish Brown’s men may have lost 2-1 to Marconi Stallions in round thirteen, but outside that result the White Eagles have conceded a meagre two goals in six fixtures and are comfortably among the sides baying outside the top five for a finals position.
Bonnyrigg will also be buoyed by what has been an impressive record over City in the past two seasons. Although the White Eagles were comfortably beaten 3-0 in the reverse fixture at Lily’s in round three, Bonnyrigg had won their previous four outings against City.
Manly United v Sydney Olympic, 5.00pm at Cromer Park
Manly United will be looking to continue their improving recent form against Sydney Olympic when they pair clash at Cromer Park on Saturday.
Adam Griffith’s side moved into ninth position following a 4-1 win over Hakoah Sydney City East last weekend, a result that saw Mitchell Rooke claim a hattrick and comfortably stands out as the side’s strongest result so far this campaign.
Manly have won three of their last five heading into the contest and although the side are eight points away from fifth position, the potential the Cromer Park outfit has shown over the past month should instill enough confidence in which to mount a serious assault on the finals positions.
They’ll need to start with the visit of Olympic this Saturday however, and avoid complacency against the league’s bottom club. The Blues are currently four points adrift at the bottom after last weekend’s 0-0 draw with APIA Leichhardt Tigers but have offered up their fair share of promising performances in recent months, including draws with Sydney Olympic and Wollongong and a famous defeat of Sutherland Sharks.
Anthony Harb’s men will be determined to resuscitate their campaign with nine rounds remaining, and they should be boosted by the fact they’ve done it before. Olympic were struggling on the competition ladder as late as round 18 in 2016 – before going on a sensational late season run to eventually claim the championship with a win over Manly.
Wollongong Wolves v Sydney FC, 5.00pm at WIN Stadium
Wollongong Wolves host Sydney FC in a salivating third versus fourth contest at WIN Stadium on Saturday evening, and there isn’t much to separate the two championship hopefuls.
Both sides enter the encounter locked on 23 points with Wollongong edging ahead of the Sky Blues by one goal difference, thanks to a 1-0 victory over Rockdale last weekend. The Wolves have quietly been going about their business all season but have surged to premiership contention on the back of a sensational defensive run.
The South Coast outfit has kept five clean sheets in their last seven fixtures and boasts the best defensive record in the competition. Wollongong have varied their approach this campaign to great effect, which holds them in great stead for the arrival of Sydney.
The Sky Blues enter the clash bolstered by a 3-1 win over Sutherland Sharks last Saturday, a result that ranks as the side’s best result this season, and one that firmly places Sydney back in title contention. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Sydney’s win over the competition frontrunners was their organization and discipline at the back to deny Sutherland a route back into the match – the Sky Blues have leaked goals for fun at times this year and will need to carry in a similar approach to escape WIN Stadium victorious.
Sydney United 58 v Rockdale City Suns, 5.30pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
Sydney United are searching for a win to remain in touch with the top five as they host Rockdale City Suns at Sydney United Sports Centre.
The Reds had won two on the bounce prior to last weekend’s narrow defeat to Blacktown City and will arrive into the fixture with the Suns six points away from fifth-placed Hakoah Sydney City East.
United 58 would consider anything less than a finals finish a failure this season and will target the visit of Rockdale as three points they must collect in order sustain their hunt for a top five place.
It won’t be easy against a Rockdale outfit who have turned their rocky campaign around in recent weeks. In their last five matches against the current top five, the Suns were only handily beaten by Blacktown City – Stamati Glaros’ side defeated Sutherland, drew with Sydney and were edged out by Wollongong Wolves and Hakoah Sydney City East by one goal margins. The 10th-placed visitors will now take on sixth-placed Sydney United 58 having proven their quality in the competition.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers v Marconi Stallions, 1.30pm at Lambert Park
APIA Leichhardt Tigers are hunting for a victory to keep in touch with the top five against Marconi Stallions at Lambert Park on Sunday afternoon.
Franco Consentino’s side are currently three points away from fifth-placed Hakoah Sydney City East with nine fixtures remaining and having staggered through an inconsistent to date the 2017 Grand Finalists need to start building momentum.
The Tigers have offered encouraging signs over the past month, particularly in the organization of the defence, and enter the contest with back to back clean sheets against Sydney Olympic and Manly United.
Visitors Marconi know they can’t afford another slip up in their diminishing bid for finals football, although with the Stallions just three points behind Sunday’s opponents and having beaten the Tigers 3-2 a month ago, it could be a match to regenerate their season.
-By Jacob Windon