With just three rounds to go in the PS4 NPL NSW Men’s 2 competition, the title remains open as does the makeup of the top five. This week our feature game takes us to Hensley Field where Hakoah Sydney City East, making a late charge for the title, meet Bankstown Berries, fighting for the five.
Hakoah Sydney City East v Bankstown Berries Saturday 7:30pm Hensley Field Pagewood
This match looks primed for good football. Both sides are the form teams of the competition at the moment with Hakoah having won five straight while the Berries have won six and drawn one from their past seven. Hakoah are certainly keeping Spirit FC honest too and their title challenge continues apace this Saturday. With their re-arranged match against Mount Druitt Town Rangers scheduled for Wednesday 12 August, there is the possibility that the chase could go down to the final weekend. For that to happen though, Hakoah will need to take all the points here, and the Berries will be sure to have strong say in that.
Their win against Central Coast was the first of what the Berries hope will be a clean sweep of the top three. After Hakoah this Saturday, they welcome Spirit FC to The Crest next weekend and two further positive results may just be enough. It will be hard to do, but with the form they are showing at the moment, no one should be surprised.
Sydney University v Bankstown City Saturday 7:30pm Lambert Park Leichhardt
Sydney Uni’s season is on the line when they face Bankstown City this Saturday. After a brief run of positive results in June, July has been less kind with one draw and three losses from their past four games. Two points behind Mounties, Uni are still in with a shout of avoiding the wooden spoon, especially as they appear to have a more favourable draw than Mounties over these final three weeks. A win against the Lions would be a start, and with Tayfun Buyukkopru a possible returnee from injury, they are not without a chance.
Bankstown City will do well not to underestimate Uni. While their opponents have struggled throughout the year, wins over Hakoah Sydney City East and Central Coast particularly has shown the damage they can do. Being a point behind the Berries means that the Lions can ill afford any dropped points here while a favourable result over at Hensley would see them enter the five for the first time since Round 9.
Mount Druitt Town Rangers v Northern Tigers Saturday 7:30pm Popondetta Park Emerton
This looks a potential banana skin for the Tigers. Admittedly Mount Druitt are in a rough patch, with six consecutive losses all but ruining their finals hopes, but again, for every loss suffered, the Rangers are closer to another victory. With three of their final four games at Popondetta Park, it is not out of the question that the Rangers could finish with a spurt, and play a large part in 1. Who wins the title and 2. Who makes the semis. They perhaps should have taken the lead against St George on the weekend, but spurned the chance. They may be less profligate next time.
The Tigers will of course be hoping that the Rangers’ poor run continues for at least one more week. Eyeing off third, the Tigers also need to keep a close watch on both Bankstown clubs lurking behind. A slip here could see the Tigers fall out of the five altogether should both Bankstowns win so there is plenty at stake. While the Tigers have a softer finish to the season than most, playing three of the bottom five, a lapse in concentration could still prove fatal.
Spirit FC v Macarthur Rams Sunday 3pm Christie Park Marsfield
After two draws, Spirit’s healthy lead of six points might meet some pressure as Hakoah snap at their heels. A return to winning ways will be needed when they meet Macarthur Rams on Sunday, in what will be their final home game of the season. A tough away double at The Crest and then Cook Park to end their season is no certainty for maximum points and the last thing Spirit need is Hakoah sneaking up on them so late in the season. But the wise heads at Christie should ensure that Spirit don’t let it slip from here.
Two straight losses has cruelled the hopes of Macarthur and they are now playing out their season. Like many clubs this season, the Rams failed to find the consistency needed and only once managed to win two weeks in a row. Not normal service from the Rams who have tended to be finals contenders more often than not. But a desired late flourish and a chance to have a say in the title race is a couple of reasons why the Rams should still be treated carefully.
Fraser Park v St George Sunday 3pm Fraser Park Sydenham
Fraser Park are not out of the finals race yet but it is not looking too good. They will have a clearer idea of their hopes by the time this match kicks off with both Bankstown City and Bankstown Berries being involved in their respective matches on Saturday night. Should both suffer a loss, Fraser’s own hopes will be enhanced significantly.
St George were relieved after last week’s win, and combined with a point from Spirit last Wednesday, things look to be on the up. Both matches over the past week have seen much improved performances, and it was almost a throwback to years long ago with Tom Slater, in the bulldog style reminiscent of his father, Robbie, at the same ground over thirty years ago, taking on defenders at pace.
The Saints will travel the short distance down the highway keen to further improve their position, with Macarthur Rams and Mount Druitt Town Rangers drawing closer in their sights.
Central Coast v Mounties Wanderers Sunday 3pm Pluim Park Lisarow
After such a brilliant first half of the season, the second half has seen the Coast falter somewhat with five losses from eight games, a run of results which has seen the title slip away and the club championship advantage head to the eastern suburbs. But hope is not all lost and it takes just one shock result for the tables to be overturned. A clean sweep of results on Sunday will help and that is surely what Central Coast will be aiming for.
Mounties will be breathing a lot easier now after it looked quite dire a month ago. But a win and three draws from their past four games have lifted them out of trouble to a large degree and they may now be able to play without that pressure. They could still finish bottom of course, and that should be incentive enough to make a go of it against the Coast.
Source FNSW Website -by Peter Rowney, PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men's 2 Reporter