With each passing round we get closer to the end of the season and competition points start to mean more and more.
They can set you up for glory, they can rescue you from danger, or they can cruelly elude you as you sink deeper and deeper into trouble.
Which teams will claim three precious points in another blockbuster round of the NPL 2 NSW Men’s?
Match of the Round:
Mt Druitt Town Rangers vs Blacktown Spartans – Saturday 21st April – 7pm – Popondetta Park
“This town ain’t big enough for the two of us!”
It’s a line at the centre of any great western drama.
As we get set for another classic western drama between Mt Druitt Rangers and the Blacktown Spartans, it’s a line that once again resonates.
Two teams that – for very different reasons – are finding that the town of the NPL 2 NSW Men’s competition may not be the right size for them after all.
So far this season, the NPL 2 has seemed far too small for a Mt Druitt team with ambitions to dine at the top table of NPL football in NSW.
The undefeated Rangers sit atop both the Club Championship table and the competition ladder after 7 rounds – having won six of their opening seven games.
Unfortunately, for a Spartans side devoid of confidence and languishing at the wrong end of the table, the NPL 2 seems a town far too daunting.
The lights of Blacktown Football Park once shone brightly on a team performing admirably in the NPL 1 but there is an increasing fear that these light will be forced to flicker over NPL 3 football next season.
Propped up by a promising under 20s team, the Spartans sit 5th from bottom in the Club Championship table, but their worrying form in first grade is of grave concern for the fans of the men in orange and black.
Squaring up to their local rivals is an ominous task for the Spartans but in many great western dramas, the underdog finds a way to win.
Can the Spartans upset the odds to steal a point off Mt Druitt on Saturday night?
Or will the Rangers prove they’re the only sheriffs in this town?
St George FC vs Rydalmere Lions – Saturday 21st April – 7pm – Ilinden Sports Centre
With 24 goals scored in just 7 games, St George FC’s attack is the most lethal in the league.
Just ask Hills United keeper, Luke Turnbull.
The experienced shot-stopper has been having Juan Carlos Heras Romero shaped nightmares all week after the Spanish superstar put on a clinic at Lily Homes Stadium last round.
Turnbull is a quality keeper and has shown as much with a string of top-draw saves this season; but his expertise only serves to highlight how incredible the exploits of Romero was last weekend.
Stopping the St George attack will be the focus of the Rydalmere coaching staff all week, but providing an answer to the St George question seems to be a task too difficult for many teams in the league.
Can Rydalmere find the answer?
Perhaps the answer doesn’t lie in the Rydalmere defence, but attack.
In the five games the Lions have scored in this season, they have won four of them.
This is largely due to the fact that Rydalmere are a team fuelled by confidence.
If the Lions manage to score an early goal in this game, they will surge in self-belief and it could lead to a very spectacular upset on Saturday night.
Western Sydney Wanderers vs Central Coast Mariners – Saturday 21st April – 7pm – Sydney United Sports Centre
With the curtain drawn disappointingly over the season of both of these club’s senior A-League teams, all eyes will now be fixed on the fortunes of their NPL 2 sides, hoping…dreaming, of better.
Will the abrupt end of the Western Sydney Wanderers A-League campaign mean Keanu Baccus returns to the NPL 2 side?
Depending on the regulations surrounding his availability, it could be the spark the red & black faithful crave.
The return of the three-musketeers.
Abraham Majok, Lachlan Scott and Keanu Baccus.
It’s a sentence to drive fear into the heart of all their NPL 2 rivals.
The Wanderers aren’t alone in the boast of future talent, however.
The Central Coast Mariners can conjure up names to rival the reputation of the Wanderers trio.
Jordan Smylie, Matias Paz and Alec Vinci are three young men all driven in pursuit of an A-League jersey.
With two teams able to boast such a wealth of talent, this clash promises to be a fascinating battle between two of Australia’s footballing powerhouses.
Canterbury Bankstown FC vs Northern Tigers FC – Saturday 21st April – 7pm – The Crest Athletic Centre
The competition table and form guide tell two very different stories as Canterbury Bankstown and Northern Tigers clash on Saturday night.
Sitting in fourth on the table on 11 points, the Tigers look far more comfortable than their opponents, the Berries, who are 5 points adrift in 12th place.
Although that’s not what the form guide says.
Canterbury Bankstown are currently one of the form teams in the competition.
With seven goals and two wins from their past two games, Branko Culina’s men are in season-best form.
Compare that with the Tigers who have only picked up one point from their past two games, scoring just one goal.
Is recent form or the competition table a more accurate indication of how this game will play out?
Find out on Saturday night at The Crest Athletic Centre.
North Shore Mariners vs Mounties Wanderers – Sunday 22nd April – 4pm – Northbridge Oval
New coach, new fortunes?
The Mounties Wanderers have underperformed so far this season.
They lie in 11th place on the table, far below the top-six aspirations many at the club held at the beginning of the season.
Will Terry Palapanis be able to wave his magic wand at Mounties to a similar effect it had at St George? Or will the inconsistent form of his new crop of players be a spell too difficult to resolve?
Hoarding similar disappointments for the season so far is the North Shore Mariners. Their three wins and three defeats suggests a year of mid-table mediocrity awaits but that falls well short of the goals the club established for themselves at the beginning of the campaign.
Despite both teams desperately needing a win to get their unsatisfactory seasons back on track, three points must belong to one team on Sunday afternoon.
Who will it be?
Hills United FC vs Macarthur Rams – Sunday 22nd April – 7pm – Lily Homes Stadium
One team hoping to forget the misery of last week, the other hoping to harness the confidence gained meet in Round 8 of the NPL 2 NSW Men’s.
Hills United’s demoralising defeat against St George last round sent them crashing back to earth, after their early season form suggested the Brumbies could start to dream of an unlikely finals’ position.
Macarthur, by contrast, erased much of the early season pain suffered by their fans, with a comprehensive 4-1 victory over Spirit FC.
Mark Symington and Sam Onana (what’s my name?) Awono were superb in that match and Rams’ fans will be praying these two can replicate their efforts on Sunday afternoon.
It’s often been said that a week is a long time in football, it’s time for Hills United and Macarthur Rams to prove to us just how true that statement is.
Parramatta FC vs GHFA Spirit FC – Sunday 22nd April – 7pm – Melita Stadium
They’re two of the most iconic teams in the NPL 2 NSW Men’s.
Parramatta FC and GHFA Spirit FC.
But they’re also two teams whose status in the league is under serious threat.
With the confirmed three team relegation in place for the NPL 2 this season, the relegation battle for season 2018 is shaping up as the most merciless of all time.
As Parramatta FC lie in second last on 39 points on the Club Championship ladder, and Spirit FC sit in 11th on 46 points, both clubs are well within the sights of the relegation sword.
A case can be made for these teams lacking their fair share of luck in the early rounds, but that argument only gets you so far.
After seven league rounds, both of these teams are in the bottom half of the table – not where they need or want to be.
The time for talking has stopped and the time for action has come.
Who is going to step up and make the first move?
Find out in the final game of what promises to be another spectacular round of NPL 2 NSW Men’s football.
↑ St George (W,W,W)
↓ Mt Druitt (W,W,D)
↑ Bankstown Berries (W,W,L)
↑ Western Sydney Wanderers (D,W,W)
↓ Central Coast Mariners (D,W,D)
↓ Parramatta FC (D,W,D)
↑ Macarthur Rams (W,L,D)
↓ Hills United (L,W,D)
↓ Northern Tigers (D,L,W)
↓ Rydalmere Lions (D,L,W)
↑ North Shore Mariners (D,L,L)
↑ Blacktown Spartans (L,L,D)
↓ Spirit FC (L,L,L)
↓ Mounties Wanderers (L,L,L)
Source FNSW website-By Ryan Latty