Down to the final three rounds in the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s, the main targets are still to be decided with Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers fighting out for the Premiership, Northern Tigers and Mount Druitt Town Rangers the main rivals trying to take sixth, while North Shore Mariners, Fraser Park and Bankstown Berries work hard to maintain their NPL2 status.
This week our cameras head to Marconi Stadium for the clash between Marconi and Western Sydney Wanderers.
Marconi v Western Sydney Wanderers Sunday 3pm Marconi Stadium, Bossley Park
After last week’s dramatic comeback, Marconi inched a little bit closer to the top but while it is unlikely that they will succeed in finishing ahead of the top two, they will intend to make it as close as possible. With the Stallions to face Sydney FC next week, and the top two to meet in the final round, a run of three victories in their final games will give Marconi a mathematical chance, as it currently stands. They may well be keeping a close eye on the score from North Shore Mariners v Sydney FC and be wishing for the season’s upset.
The Wanderers’ slip last week could be costly. With another tough trip to Mounties next weekend, they have handed the advantage to Sydney FC, and they will need to be on their game against Rooney, Pavlovic, Jesic and co. With 48 goals between them, and Rooney and Pavlovic scoring all five last week, there is no secret where Marconi’s prominent danger comes from. The Wanderers certainly won’t need to guess. This has the potential to be one of the games of the season.
St George v Mounties Wanderers Saturday 7pm St George Stadium, Kyeemagh
After missing last weekend due to the adverse weather, St George will be keen to hit the ground running when they meet Mounties Wanderers. By dint of having a game in hand, the Saints haven’t given up hope of making a late run for the semis, tough though it may be, which means a win against the visiting Mounties is imperative. After a couple of good results, against Mount Druitt Town Rangers and Northern Tigers, the two clubs that St George will need to leapfrog, it might yet be a bright end to the season.
While Mounties are probably safe in the six, they will still want to enter the finals series in form. They should have defeated Marconi last Sunday, but conceded five goals when 3-0 up. David Perkovic won’t be happy with that statistic, neither will Patrick Gatt and Wade Oostendorp, the central defensive pairing who have kept a tight rein otherwise this season. There is still a slim chance that Mounties could fall out of the top six over the last three rounds if results drop off so they will be out to ensure that that doesn’t happen.
Bankstown Berries v Northern Tigers Saturday 7pm The Crest, Bass Hill
Should Fraser Park and North Shore Mariners gather enough points across the grades over the next week or two, it will be Bankstown Berries who will be next in line. While finishing with the wooden spoon would be of no real concern, cue Mounties Wanderers in 2015, and in any event, that looks to be heading northside, the club championship is another matter. For that reason alone, the Berries will be fighting tooth and nail to defeat Northern Tigers. It hasn’t been the best of seasons for the Berries, who this time last year were chasing a spot in the top five, but they will be out to make sure it doesn’t get any worse.
The Tigers have it in their hands, again, when it comes to which club will round out the six. By most calculations, it should realistically be either the Tigers or Mount Druitt Town Rangers but there is still plenty of football to be played before it is finally decided. Ahead only on goal difference, the Tigers will have a job on their hands against the Berries, and they will need to be at the best against a side desperate for points.
Macarthur Rams v Bankstown City Saturday 7pm Lynwood Park, St Helens Park
As Lee Sterrey acknowledged after Macarthur’s loss to Northern Tigers, while a mathematical chance remains for the Rams, a leap into the top six is now unlikely. Last week’s match was their Grand Final and while Macarthur certainly played well enough, creating more than enough chances to win, they weren’t taken, with a goal conceded right at the death. As it is now, Macarthur have three games to play out the season and while they may rue the lost opportunities, the season has certainly been an improver on 2015. The Rams still have plenty of pride to play for, and they won’t want to be taken lightly.
After finally getting all of their postponed matches up to date, Bankstown City had the unfortunate coincidence of having their next match against St George washed out three days later. It may have been a blessing in disguise with the Lions having played during the previous two midweeks, and so they will appreciate the ten days since their last outing. They have won their past two, against rivals for third, and with that game against St George still to come, a win at Lynwood Park will keep them right in contention.
Fraser Park v Mount Druitt Town Rangers Saturday 7pm Fraser Park, Sydenham
Fraser Park will be kicking themselves after conceding a 94th minute equaliser against Spirit FC last Sunday, and they will be hoping that the loss of eight club championship points doesn’t come back to haunt them. The only way to make sure it doesn’t of course is to win this weekend when Mount Druitt Town visit, but with Rangers in a tight battle for the finals, that won’t be an easy task. Fraser’s run of points is well known but they are not yet safe.
Rangers have dropped a few points recently which has now handed the advantage back to Northern Tigers but the way the finals chase is playing out, with teams struggling to link consecutive wins together, they shouldn’t lose heart. Strangely enough, Rangers will play a hand in which club comes bottom, with North Shore Mariners hosting Mount Druitt Town in the final round.
North Shore Mariners v Sydney FC Sunday 3pm Northbridge Oval, Northbridge
There is plenty riding on this game and there should be a good turnout from both sets of supporters with so much at stake, For the home side, they are hanging in by a thread at the moment, but after claiming a draw against Western Sydney Wanderers last Saturday, they will hope to do something similar this weekend. Sydney FC would have silently thanked North Shore for taking points off the Wanderers, as it was that draw that allowed the Sky Blues to return to the top of the table.
Sydney FC regained the lead though only on goal difference and they still have to face the Wanderers away in the last game of the season. That means that there is absolutely no room for error, and they will be mindful of the desperate position that North Shore are in. And it won’t have escaped their notice that Marconi could yet have a say in the title, should Sydney FC drop points here. But after Charles Lokolingoy returned last weekend, if only for twenty minutes, they will take comfort from the league’s leading scorer back in action at just the right time. Lokolingoy and Bai Antoniou came on late in Sydney FC’s Westfield FFA Cup win against Wollongong Wolves on Wednesday night, Antoniou providing the assist for the third goal, so the pair should be buzzing on the weekend.
Central Coast Mariners v Spirit FC Sunday 3pm Pluim Park, Lisarow
This is a rare fixture with not too much riding on it, except pride and the desire for both clubs to finish as high as possible. Central Coast may still have some hope of a top six finish but they would need a big turnaround in form, some big wins to fix their poor goal difference and consecutive victories to entertain that hope. But without a victory on the park in their past six, it remains unlikely. Instead, the Mariners will continue to blood youngsters, which is after all, their intention for this competition.
One can imagine that Spirit FC are now quite happy to enjoy the remainder of the season. Not too long ago, they were bottom of the league and bottom of the club championship but just one loss in eight games has lifted Spirit well away in both tables. It is something of a relief for the reigning premiers, who even though they didn’t figure in the challenge for the title this year, will be keen to end the season as high as possible.
Source FNSW - by Peter Rowney, PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men's 2 Reporter