Last weekend’s action in the NPL NSW Men’s 20’s saw the teams at the top falter while the stragglers picked up a few unexpected results, though Sutherland Sharks and Sydney FC will be determined to make up for lost points when Round 17 gets underway on Saturday afternoon.
The Match of the Round sees second-placed Sydney FC taking on APIA Leichhardt at Lambert Park, with the hosts in need of a result to hold off a late challenge from Blacktown City.
Match of the Round: Sydney FC v APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 5.45pm at Lambert Park
Sydney FC return to Lambert Park on Saturday afternoon looking to kick back into top gear after a disappointing 0-0 draw at Bonnyrigg White Eagles in Round 16.
Giancarlo Italiano’s men put seven past Sydney United 58 two weeks ago but could only manage a point at Bonnyrigg Sports Club, though Sutherland’s defeat to United meant Sydney FC’s slip-up went unpunished by the competition leaders. Blacktown City sit just a point behind in third with a game in hand, meaning there’s little room for error against APIA Leichhardt.
Sydney FC face an APIA side buoyed by a 2-0 win over Rockdale City Suns, and looking to ignite a late charge up the table. APIA have struggled for consistency this year but will be confident of rattling their opponents on the weekend after a convincing win on Sunday afternoon.
Certainly, Franco Consentino’s men will be eager to make amends for their 3-2 defeat to Sydney FC in Round 6, even if the reverse fixture has come too late in the season for last season’s Grand Finalists.
Sutherland Sharks FC v Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC, Saturday 4.30pm at Seymour Shaw
After a surprising loss to Sydney United 58 last Saturday, Sutherland Sharks might want to thank Bonnyrigg White Eagles for holding Sydney FC to a point in Round 16, preserving their lead at the top of the ladder.
Instead, the Sharks will host Bonnyrigg at Seymour Shaw on Saturday afternoon, and will be hoping to follow up their 1-0 win in the reverse fixture in mid-April with a further three points to revive their stuttering campaign. Sutherland will be desperate for a win, knowing they can’t rely on other sides to keep Sydney FC at bay should they fall to another defeat in the run-in.
Bonnyrigg, meanwhile, should travel to Seymour Shaw in good spirits ahead of their clash with the Sharks, having taken an unexpected point against Sydney FC to remain in the hunt for a spot in the finals. A win here would raise the possibility of a last-minute dash for the line, while a defeat would be near fatal for Bonnyrigg’s top five chances, even with a game in hand.
Hakoah Sydney City East FC v Marconi Stallions FC, 5.00pm at Hensley Athletic Field
Hakoah have their season well and truly back on track after a wobble earlier in the month, following up a 1-0 win over Sydney Olympic with a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Wollongong Wolves at WIN Stadium last weekend. They retain their six-point lead over sixth-placed Manly United, and remain level on points with Blacktown City above them.
Those gathered at Hensley Athletic Field will be eager for a repeat performance on Saturday when Hakoah host Marconi, having dispatched the Stallions by the same 3-0 scoreline when the two sides met earlier in the season.
Marconi will still harbour faint hope of a push for the top five, though their recent upturn in form still leaves them closer to the foot of the table than the finals positions. A 2-1 defeat to Sydney Olympic in Round 16 was tough to take, yet another loss would almost certainly spell the end of their season.
Blacktown City FC v Sydney Olympic FC, 1.00pm at Lilys Homes Stadium
Blacktown City may crack the top two yet, but were unable to capitalise on Sutherland Sharks and Sydney FC slipping up in their matches as they copped a 2-1 loss to Manly United in Round 16.
With a game in hand against Bonnyrigg to come, Blacktown will still favour themselves to finish in second place at least, though can ill afford to drop points again. They’ll continue their challenge on Saturday afternoon when they welcome Sydney Olympic to Lilys Homes Stadium, the visitors fresh from last weekend’s 2-1 win over Marconi Stallions.
Olympic put an end to their run of three matches without a goal with a tight victory against Marconi, and will need to be at their clinical best again this week when they take on one of the competition heavyweights. In any case, they’ll need to be better than they were the last time these sides met, a 5-1 defeat for Olympic in front of their own fans in Round 6.
Wollongong Wolves FC v Sydney United 58 FC, 1.00pm at WIN Stadium
Wollongong Wolves suffered one of their heaviest losses of the 2018 season when they went down 3-0 at home to Hakoah Sydney City East. With little to take from that performance, Wollongong may shift their focus from the teams above them to the team below, with Manly’s Round 16 win leaving the Wolves just four points clear in fifth.
They continue to have one of the best defensive units in the league, and will need to be on top form against a Sydney United 58 side coming into this game on a high. United pulled off a shock win to overcome Sutherland Sharks 1-0 last weekend, giving new hope to their chances of reeling in the top five. A win in Wollongong would take them to within a point of the Wolves, while defeat would render any late challenge almost impossible.
Rockdale City Suns FC v Manly United FC, 3.00pm at Ilinden Sports Center
Manly United travel to Illiden Sports Center on Sunday afternoon with just four points to make up on fifth-placed Wollongong Wolves after a stunning victory over Blacktown City in Round 16.
Unbeaten in four matches, this weekend they take on a Rockdale City side which remains rooted to the bottom of the table, having slumped to a fourth-straight defeat at Lambert Park last Saturday.
These sides split the points between them when they met at Cromer Park in April, though a draw will do little for either now: Manly must win to keep up pressure on the Wolves ahead of them, while Rockdale face a fight to avoid finishing with the wooden spoon.
-By Max Grieve