Marconi Stallions will face Hills Brumbies in this Saturday's PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues' 2 Men's match of the round at Marconi Stadium, full of confidence after putting the sword to Blacktown Spartans 5-0 last weekend.
The Sky Blues were at their irresistible best for the first time this season, but they'll need to regroup for a Brumbies outfit that has the ability to cause the competition heavyweights some bother.
Meanwhile, in other matches, Mount Druitt host Central Coast Mariners; Spirit FC entertain Northern Tigers; St George journeys to Bankstown City; North Shore Mariners face Macarthur Rams; Mounties clash with Blacktown Spartans and Western Sydney Wanderers host Bankstown Berries.
Match of the Round
Marconi Stallions vs Hills Brumbies, Marconi Stadium, 7pm, Saturday 13 May
League-leaders Marconi Stallions will go into the PPS4 NPL 2 NSW Men's Match of the Round against newly-promoted Hills Brumbies full of confidence after last week's comprehensive 5-0 victory over Blacktown Spartans.
The Stallions were rampant. They executed with the ruthlessness of an ice-cool assassin and for the first time this season they completely strangled the life out of the opposition.
"I think the boys were just in the mood last night," Marconi coach Tony Candy told Football NSW. "They turned up and were in the mood. They showed what they can do and it was a good performance. We were quite aggressive and our attitude toward the match was perfect. Everyone was on the same page, we kept the ball and made it very difficult for their back four."
Before the Spartans' match, Marconi hadn't strung together a full 90-minute performance all season. But they certainly rectified that against their hapless opponents on Saturday night.
Looking ahead to this week's clash against Hills Brumbies, Candy expects the opposition to sit deep in an attempt to deny his talent-laden outfit time and space to work their magic.
"When our opponents look at our team and the forward line that we have, they automatically decide to sit deep and try to deny us time and space," Candy said. "We expect that every week."
Indeed, with the likes of former A-Leaguers Sean Rooney, Marko Jesic, Mirjan Pavlovic and Peter Triantis lurking up front, the Stallions possess the most lethal strike-force in the competition, one that Hills will be desperate to shut down.
The Brumbies played a one-all draw with Spirit FC last week and if they come up against a Marconi side with the same mental fortitude and desire as the one that blitzed the Spartans, they'll need to play the game of their lives to compete. Then again, if the Stallions aren't purring on all cylinders, the Brumbies have the ability to make life difficult for the most fancied club in the competition.
Hills have so far impressed in their debut PS4 NPL 2 NSW campaign. They're in a good place - mid-table and only a point outside the top four - and they have the desire to continue their rise as a force to be reckoned with.
Ever since the side won promotion from PS4 NPL 3 last season, coach Dan Sheppard couldn't wait for the opportunity to compete against the cream of the second-tier competition. He'll get his wish at Bossley Park on Saturday night. After all, it doesn't get much tougher than facing Marconi at Marconi Stadium.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers vs Central Coast Mariners, Popondetta Park, 7pm, Saturday 13 May
Mt Druitt Town Rangers will host Central Coast Mariners at Popondetta Park on Saturday night and the home team will be hoping to turn the screws on the academy side that sits in third-last place on the table.
The return of ace striker Kuag Reec has given Mt Druitt a huge boost in confidence and his performance in their victory over St George last weekend was an inspiring one.
After trailing 1-0 at halftime, Reec was brought down inside the box in the 54th minute, giving Daniel McCann the chance to slot home the equaliser from the spot.
Reec then held his nerve eight minutes from the end of normal time, steering the ball into the net to give his side a 2-1 lead.
Mt Druitt coach Aidan Desmond praised Reec, whose return from serious injury has been a fantastic morale-booster for his teammates.
"The boys lifted mentally with Kuag on the park," Desmond said of the sharpshooter. "He trained with the team on Thursday night for the first time and the mood and the spirit in the team was different."
Desmond wasn't just impressed with Reec, he also praised the whole team for having the intestinal fortitude to fight back from a goal down; and to maintain their composure after losing goalkeeper Carlos Saliadarre to a second half ankle injury.
"We showed a lot of character to come back from 1-0 down at halftime," Desmond told Football NSW. "But we're not getting carried away with the result because there's still a long way to go. But it's good to see that we're starting to get some consistency."
Meanwhile, Central Coast coach Ben Cahn will be hoping his side can turn the corner after what has been an horrendous start to their campaign so far.
Currently on two wins from 10 matches, the talented young Mariners last weekend stumbled to a 4-3 defeat to North Shore Mariners after holding a 3-2 lead with just seven minutes remaining.
But despite their precarious position, Cahn remains upbeat about his side's potential.
"We were by far the better team (against North Shore), we missed a host of goals and they scored four goals from four chances," Cahn told Football NSW. "I'm speechless to be honest. They (North Shore) turned up and played very little football.
"We're really disappointed. Every week we play better football than the opposition, we play really well. We dominate but we get out-thought. This week we actually won the fight and North Shore were really uncomfortable dealing with how we played. We defended comfortably from open play and they posed us no threat at all.
"To be 3-2 up with seven minutes to go and to be in complete control of the game for 83 minutes was a real hard one to take. I still believe that we're one of the better sides in the league. If we can just get those one per centers right there's no reason why we can't get a run of eight, nine, ten wins because we haven't played a team yet that I don't think we can't beat. We're just lacking that depth, that experience, that maturity. So hopefully it's not long before someone looks down on us and gives us a little bit of luck."
Popondetta Park is always a difficult place to get a result and the young Mariners will need to be at their very best, both mentally and physically, to overcome a side whose confidence is on the rise.
Spirit FC vs Northern Tigers, Valentine Sports Park, 7pm, Saturday 13 May
Spirit FC host Northern Tigers at Valentine Sports Park on Saturday and the home side will be desperate to find some momentum asap.
Spirit currently lie in second-last place on the table and their assignment against the third placed Tigers will be a formidable one.
Spirit coach David Perkovic said that in their last three matches, his side has created more goal-scoring opportunities than their opponents, but their inability to finish has been a major frustration.
"I have to admit that our efforts in the last three games has been quite good," Perkovic said. "In all three of those matches we've created more goal-scoring opportunities than our opponents. However, there's still a bit of a problem converting those chances but I'm confident that once we're able to overcome that then we'll be able to bury teams when we should."
Spirit shared the spoils in a one-all draw with Hills Brumbies last week but wasted several opportunities in front of goal, including an open goal in the dying minutes.
"We missed an open goal against Hillsand we had a couple of opportunities where a pass would have been the better option than a shot," Perkovic said. "We definitely had more opportunities to kill off the game but it wasn't to be.
"We were in control of the game and I think that we asked more questions of them than they did of us. But it was a good competitive match, one I felt that we should've got three points for."
Meanwhile, Northern Tigers got their season back on track with a comfortable 4-2 victory over Bankstown City Lions at North Turramurra on Saturday night.
The Tigers raced away to a 2-0 lead after just 13 minutes and with a hat-trick to Jordan Smylie, dominated the match from beginning to end.
"We moved the ball really well and were in control of the game," Tigers coach Mark McCormick told Football NSW. "We created several goal-scoring chances and moved them around. We controlled the whole field and that was certainly the most pleasing part of the performance."
While Smylie was the man of the moment, the victory was a courageous one due to an injury epidemic that has swept through the club.
"We've been absolutely decimated by injuries so to get the win was really important," McCormick said. "Both our central midfielders were only 19; Smylie is 17; so we're a very young team. We were good enough and it's a great result for the group."
Bankstown City vs St George, Jensen Park, 3pm, Sunday 14 May
Bankstown City host St George at Jensen Park on Sunday and both sides will be desperate to get their respective seasons back on track after losses last weekend.
Bankstown were humbled 4-2 by Northern Tigers; while St George suffered a 3-1 setback at home to Mt Druitt Town Rangers.
As always, Bankstown coach Mile Todoroski stressed how dire this campaign has been and admitted his side was "totally outplayed" by Northern Tigers.
"They (Northern Tigers) were completely on top of the game, but their four goals were very weak," Todoroski told Football NSW. "As a coach I feel helpless but at the end of the day we don't have the time to sit down and cry. We have to fight and start to regroup and try to chase a miracle," starting with St George this weekend.
Perennial premiership contenders in recent years, Bankstown have been playing better than their position at the foot of the table would suggest, and with Nikola Todoroski scoring five goals in the last two games, they have a striker who has the instinct to pounce on any opportunities that may come his way.
Meanwhile, St George were last week worked over by an improving Mt Druitt Town Rangers, a team that is just beginning to find some serious form.
Saints' Juan Carlos Romero scored his seventh goal in eight matches and while the classy Spaniard must be close to being the best signing by any club this season, his performance alone wasn't enough to bring home the spoils.
Coach Terry Palapanis has praised his side's character in recent weeks and with their ability to create chances and score goals, they will be a tough opponent for the struggling Lions. But Saints also have to be on their game because, despite Bankstown's lowly position on the table, on their day, Bankstown still possess enough talent and fighting spirit to do some damage.
North Shore Mariners vs Macarthur Rams, Northbridge Oval, 3pm, Sunday 14 May
In one of the more intriguing matches of the round, North Shore Mariners host Macarthur Rams at Northbridge Oval on Sunday afternoon.
The Mariners again showed their tenacity when last weekend they stole a last-gasp 4-3 victory over Central Coast after trailing 3-2 with just seven minutes remaining.
"It was a very competitive game of football," North Shore coach Joe Haywood told Football NSW. "It was a good tactical battle and a good physical battle as well.
"Central Coast had chances to go two goals up but didn't take them. And eventually when they went 3-2 up, they thought they'd won the game. But in senior football it's not over until the final whistle and we kept going until the end, which paid dividends for us. We went for it and got what we deserved".
Haywood also praised his side's fitness and their ability to play to the final whistle.
"We've been working hard at training on our fitness and performance and it came to fruition because we were still competing at the end of the game and we got the result that the boys deserved," he said.
Up until their 4-3 loss to St George a fortnight ago, North Shore had been on an unbeaten streak of six matches. Their direct, high pressing tactics, vigor and strength at set pieces has made them a force to be reckoned with, one that that has the potential to hurt any team in the competition.
Meanwhile, Macarthur Rams passed their biggest test of the season with flying colours when they upset competition favourites Western Sydney Wanderers 2-1 at Lynwood Park on Saturday night, extending their unbeaten run to five games.
As expected, Rams coach Eddie Briscoe was delighted with his side's performance.
"We're doing our best and at the end of the day we're going in there positive and things are working," Briscoe told Football NSW. "We were really positive (against the Wanderers); we tried to play high, put them under pressure and try and contain them. And it worked.
"We tried to play a bit more direct because the Wanderers play a bit flat at the back and we got over the top a couple of times. It was a really good game and we played really well."
When asked what impressed him the most about his side's performance, Briscoe replied: "We're improving every week and we're starting to play football. We're getting confident and being very positive.
"But our boys were brilliant, we're sticking to the cause and putting teams under pressure. And we can play.
"The whole team performed really well."
Mounties Wanderers vs Blacktown Spartans, Valentine Sports Park, 3pm, Sunday 14 May
Mounties Wanderers face Blacktown Spartans at Valentine Sports Park on Sunday and both teams will be looking to bounce back from respective defeats last weekend.
Mounties suffered an unlucky 1-0 loss at the death to Bankstown Berries, while the Spartans were demolished 5-0 by a rampant Marconi.
Mounties dominated and created more goal-scoring chances than the Berries, but they just couldn't find the back of the net, an issue that has causedcoach Lee Sterrey considerable angst this season.
"I'm happy with our football content and our movement and interchange play, but we just haven't been sharp at the sharp end," Sterrey told Football NSW.
"Our front third's killing us at the moment and we've talked about that all year. We need to finish and we've got enough football quality to do that."
Meanwhile, Blacktown Spartans coach Luis Contigiani told Football NSW that his side saved their worst performance of the season for the game against Marconi, the best team in the competition.
"We were our worst enemies," Contigiani said of his young side's 5-0 capitulation to Marconi. "My defensive line was half asleep and we conceded in the first minute. You can't afford to be asleep against such a quality team. So we were already on the back foot from the first minute. Then we conceded a free kick in the 10th minute and they scored again.
"We had a player sent off (Emmanuel Elali) and that was the end for our boys. But to be honest, psychologically they had us beaten before the game even started. Experience played its hand.
"They were far superior than us but I was very disappointed in my team because everything we told them at training during the week and everything we asked of them, they didn't do. It's a massive learning curve for them as young players and now we have to learn from the experience and move on."
Apart from the heavy loss to Marconi, the Spartans have also been deducted points for playing an ineligible player in the early rounds of the competition, a penalty that sees them drop from the top three to ninth place on the table. But so competitive is PS4 NPL 2 this season, the Spartans remain just one point adrift of the top four, allowing them the chance to rise to the challenge and to once again show their true colours, starting with the Mounties clash this weekend.
Western Sydney Wanderers vs Bankstown Berries, Lilys Football Centre, 7pm, Sunday 14 May
Western Sydney Wanderers entertain Bankstown Berries at Lilys Football Centre on Sunday and they'll be looking to make amends for their upset loss to Macarthur Rams last weekend.
According to Western Sydney coach Trevor Morgan, the young Wanderers had 65 per cent of the ball and twice as many box entries as Macarthur. They also controlled the majority of the match but unfortunately, were unable to penetrate the Rams' defensive line.
Indeed, despite their dominance, Western Sydney's decision-making could have been better, while the opposition defended with a desperation that held firm.
"I think that we probably didn't defend our box to the standard we expect," Morgan said of his side's defeat. "As a team we were probably making the wrong decisions and we probably had too many people who rated a five or a six out of ten rather than an eight (out of ten)."
Despite the loss, Western Sydney are in outright second place on the table, three points adrift of Marconi, and while they have the quality to bounce back to the winners' circle when they face the Berries, they'll need to be at their best to do so.
The Berries were impressive in their 1-0 victory over Mounties on Saturday, their tenacity and never-say-die mentality paying off when in the 90th minute player-coach Perry Moustakas grabbed the winner from close range.
"Results haven't been fair on us and this week we spoke a lot about concentration, because that's an area we've lacked at crucial times during games," Moustakas told Football NSW.
"We have a great team spirit and the boys have fought hard all season. But tonight we had to fight for the full 90 minutes and that's what we did."
The Berries lie in eleventh place on the league table, but just four points outside the top four. One thing's for sure, despite Western Sydney's pedigree, Perry Moustakas's boys won't back down and they'll scrap for every ball from kickoff until the final whistle. Whether or not that's good enough to win will be determined late on Sunday evening.
-By Derek Royal, Football NSW Reporter