Sutherland Sharks and Sydney FC both picked up 4-1 wins in Round 17; the top two still within a point of each other as Blacktown City sit just behind with a game in hand. Manly United and Sydney United 58 both remain in the hunt for fifth place and face crucial matches against Sydney FC and Hakoah Sydney City East in Round 18, while at the other end of the table the bottom two face off on Sunday afternoon.
The Match of the Round sees leaders Sutherland Sharks travel to Lambert Park on Sunday afternoon, where they’ll meet an APIA Leichhardt side fired up and out for a win after a lopsided defeat to Sydney FC in Round 17.
Match of the Round: APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC v Sutherland Sharks FC, Sunday 1.30pm at Lambert Park
APIA Leichhardt were on the wrong end of a 4-1 scoreline when they took on second-placed Sydney FC last week, but will have the opportunity to prove themselves against top opposition again this weekend as they welcome the competition leaders to Lambert Park on Sunday afternoon.
The Tigers were down by three by halftime but rallied after the break and were unfortunate not to have taken more from a much-improved second half performance. Still, the APIA management has bemoaned an inability to finish off chances for some weeks now, and the Tigers will need their forwards to be sharp against a formidable opposition.
Sutherland put four past Bonnyrigg in Round 17 and did the same to APIA earlier in the season when they met at Seymour Shaw, the Tigers managing a consolation goal in the 4-1 defeat in Round 7.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC v Wollongong Wolves FC, 5pm at Bonnyrigg Sports Centre
Bonnyrigg White Eagles suffered a heavy defeat at Seymour Shaw last weekend, going down 4-1 to competition leaders Sutherland Sharks a week after an impressive draw with Sydney FC.
After a fortnight of fixtures against the top two teams, Bonnyrigg will welcome the chance to close the gap on Wollongong Wolves to four points, and with a game in hand might still fancy their odds of sneaking into the finals.
The Wolves were held to a scoreless draw by Sydney United 58 in Round 17, a result that leaves the door open for United, Manly and Bonnyrigg below them to mount a challenge in the final weeks of the regular season. Bonnryigg and Wollongong produced a 0-0 draw of their own when they met in this fixture at WIN Stadium back in April.
Sydney United 58 FC v Hakoah Sydney City East FC, 5.30pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
Sydney United 58 will be looking to boost their finals hopes when they host Hakoah Sydney City East in the late game at Sydney United Sports Centre on Saturday afternoon.
They could only manage a scoreless draw against Wollongong Wolves when they travelled to WIN Stadium in Round 17, missing a fantastic opportunity to close the gap on their opponents to a point. Instead, they remain four points off the pace, and face a tricky match with fourth-placed Hakoah on Saturday.
Hakoah Sydney City East lost 1-0 to Marconi Stallions last weekend, a result that will make it difficult to crack the top two, but which still leaves them with room to breathe as they sit five points ahead of their Round 18 opponents. Hakoah edged a 1-0 win over Sydney United when the two sides met back in April.
Manly United FC v Sydney FC, 1pm at Cromer Park
Manly United will be desperate for a result against one of the competition’s form sides when they meet Sydney FC at Cromer Park on Sunday afternoon, as they look to make a final push for the top five in the last few weeks of the regular season.
Manly lost 1-0 to Rockdale in Round 17 and were defeated by Sydney FC by the same scoreline when the two sides met in Round 7. Sydney FC, meanwhile, come into this match on the back of a 4-1 demolition of APIA Leichhardt, a result which might have blown out further had they not eased off in the second half.
Sydney FC will again need to rely on Sutherland dropping points if they’re to overtake them at the top of the table, and know only a win will do as they look to take first place – and hold out Blacktown City in third.
Marconi Stallions FC v Blacktown City FC, 1pm at Marconi Stadium
Marconi’s push for the finals was dealt a blow by their defeat to Sydney Olympic a fortnight ago, so it came as something of a surprise when they edged a 1-0 win over finals-bound Hakoah Sydney City East away at Hensley Athletic Field in Round 17.
The Stallions need to keep winning if they’re to stand any chance of cracking the top five, and will need to rely on a huge swing in form above them from several teams. They’lll also be hoping for a far better performance against this week’s opposition than last time out, when they lost 4-2 to Blacktown City at Lilys Homes Stadium.
Blacktown City’s situation is rather more envious. Sitting in third behind Sutherland and Sydney FC, Blacktown could move equal first if they win their game in hand against Bonnyrigg, and come into this fixture in good form having beaten Sydney Olympic 3-1 at Belmore Sports Ground last week.
Rockdale City Suns FC v Sydney Olympic FC, 3pm at Ilinden Sports Centre
The competition’s bottom two comes together at Ilinden Sports Centre in the final match of the weekend in the NPL NSW Men’s 20s; with Rockdale looking to put six points between themselves and Sydney Olympic, and Olympic hoping to rein the Suns back in.
Rockdale picked up a stunning win over Manly in Round 17, snapping a four-match losing streak and move three points off the foot of the table. They now stand a good chance of finishing somewhere midtable, and could move level on points with APIA Leichhardt should they beat Olympic here, and Sutherland Sharks win at Lambert Park.
Sydney Olympic suffered a 3-1 defeat at home to Blacktown City last weekend, and are now alone in last place after Rockdale’s win over Manly. These two last met in April at Belmore Sports Ground, when they shared the points after a 1-1 draw.
By Max Grieve