The countdown is on for the end of the season and the equation for each team is becoming clearer.
10 games to save your season. 10 games to make the finals. 10 games to claim the Premiership crown.
And it all begins now as we welcome another spectacular round of the NPL 2 NSW Men’s.
Match of the Round: Mounties Wanderers vs Parramatta FC – 1pm, Sunday 24th June – Sydney United Sports Centre
That’s the difference between the Mounties Wanderers and an elusive top six spot.
Although with only 30 points left on offer in the remaining rounds, and the other teams in the finals’ spots maintaining good form, the Wanderers have to start winning now otherwise they can start making holiday plans for early September.
Imagine a finals’ series without Juan Carlos Romero and Raul Romero – it could happen.
The gap between Parramatta and the top six is equally large but the Eagles’ concern lies not with a finals’ birth but with avoiding relegation.
Currently in last place on the Club Championship ladder, Parramatta FC are in serious danger of back-to-back relegations.
However with Macarthur Rams only 8 points above them in that table, the Eagles are ready to swoop on their prey.
With the motivation for three-points at all time high for both of these teams, this clash on Sunday afternoon promises to be another special edition of our Match of the Round in the NPL 2 NSW Men’s.
St George FC vs Mt Druitt Town Rangers – 7pm, Saturday 23rd June – Ilinden Sports Centre
Just as the undercard matches in a boxing event wet the appetite for the main fight later in the night, so too does it feel like all fixtures this weekend are just preparing football fans for the mammoth clash between St George and Mt Druitt.
The power and significance of this match feels so weighty that we need Bruce Buffer from the UFC to announce the players as they march out onto the field on Saturday night.
Fans at the Ilinden Sports Centre will be excited to catch another glimpse of Jason Romero, the new signing from America who scored on debut last week.
Another danger man for Mt Druitt to contend with is Hussein Akil. The St George star has scored 5 goals in just 3 games recently and will be looking to add the prized scalp of scoring against Carlos Saliadarre to his list of honours this season.
Despite leading the competition, Mt Druitt have struggled for consistency in recent weeks.
After shrugging off defeats against Central Coast Mariners and Parramatta FC, the Rangers looked to have recaptured their typical form with three wins in a row.
Although last week’s embarrassing 3-0 defeat to North Shore has left coach Aidan Desmond concerned with his side’s mental application during a match.
In each of the three games Mt Druitt have lost by this season, they have conceded an average of just over 3 goals per game.
It seems that when the going gets tough, the Rangers don’t really get going.
This match against St George will certainly be a tough one for Mt Druitt and fans across the competition will wait anxiously to see how they respond on Saturday night.
Hills United vs Canterbury Bankstown – 7pm, Saturday 23rd June – Lily Homes Stadium
Draw with Parramatta FC. Beat Western Sydney Wanderers.
It’s a pattern that began in Round 2 of the competition, and it’s one repeating itself here again for Hills United.
After dropping points against Spirit FC in Round 1 and again in Round 14, Hills United have gone on to replicate their results from earlier in the season.
If you’re wondering what happens next, just go back and look at Round 4 – Hills United beat Canterbury Bankstown.
That win back in March came in the middle of a four-match unbeaten run for Luke McGuire’s side and the Brumbies coach must be hoping lightning continues to strike twice for his side here.
Branko Culina took the reigns at Canterbury Bankstown during a disastrous run for the club, in which they lost every game to start the season.
After working his magic to turn their fortunes around, Culina’s men have suffered three straight defeats to drop back into the battle for the dreaded wooden spoon.
Can Culina dust off that magic wand and weave one more spell to save the season of Canterbury Bankstown? or will Hills United continue to repeat the pattern they set for themselves at the beginning of the season?
Rydalmere Lions vs Western Sydney Wanderers – 7pm, Saturday 23rd June – Valentine Sports Park
Fresh off their derby delight last round, Rydalmere come into another Western Derby classic against the Wanderers on Saturday night.
Tony Basha and the coaching staff at Rydalmere have to be given credit for the way the club has steadied the ship following the departure of Zak and Ahmad Elrich, and Amaury Gauthier. The Lions have brought through a wealth of young talent, with 9 of their starting 11 under the age of 21.
The Wanderers are no strangers to youth, either, boasting a side brimming with the unhinged confidence only youth can bring.
However whilst these two sides share an affinity for developing young talent, the recent form of these two clubs couldn’t be of greater contrast.
The Wanderers have lost three of their past four games, relinquishing their spot in the top six as a consequence.
Whilst Rydalmere continue to flourish in their breakout season in the NPL 2, winning two of their past three games to overtake the Wanderers in the finals’ places.
Can the Wanderers reverse the trend and reclaim their spot in the top six?
Or will Rydalmere look to end the Western Sydney club’s finals’ chances altogether?
Blacktown Spartans vs GHFA Spirit FC – 7pm, Saturday 23rd June – Blacktown Football Park
After enduring the most sombre of storms this season, a glowing rainbow has appeared in the skies above Blacktown Spartans the Spirit FC.
Three wins in their past five games for the Spartans has seen them climb off the bottom of the table and into the comfort of mid-table mediocrity.
Whilst Spirit FC’s change in system has produced a four-game undefeated streak; including wins over St George and Mounties Wanderers.
Although with the NPL 2 NSW Men’s competition tighter than ever before, neither side can afford to take their foot off the pedal, just yet.
Central Coast Mariners vs Northern Tigers – 3pm, Sunday 24th June – Pluim Park
Just how far can the Tigers go this season, without the leader of the pack, Michael Rolston?
In recent weeks it’s been the Tigers’ attack that has faltered as they’ve struck back-to-back blanks against the Spartans and Macarthur Rams.
However without the calming presence of Rolston in defence, Jason Eagar’s team are not the beast they once were.
Speaking of Eagar, the Central Coast Mariners will be eager to close the gap on league leaders, Mt Druitt, after their shock defeat last week. If the Mariners can win this weekend and their game in hand, we could have a new front runner in the race for the Premiership this season.
Emmanuel Peters and co will be looking to take advantage of a Rolston-free defence on Sunday afternoon as they continue their push for not only the finals, but promotion in the Club Championship for season 2018.
North Shore Mariners vs Macarthur Rams – 3:30pm, Sunday 24th June – Northbridge Oval
Prior to last week’s victory over Mt Druitt, the North Shore Mariners had struggled against top three opposition this season.
Although all of that is a distant memory now and fresh in the minds of the boys in red & white stripes is, their emphatic victory over the Rangers last round.
And if the answer to the question, ‘how good can the Mariners be?’, was provided in that match, surely a new question has to be asked of the North Shore side this season.
‘How far can they go?’
Whilst the Mariners won’t expect to be playing the Rams in the finals this season, it’s matches like this that can determine where in the top six they finish, and, consequently, how good a chance they give themselves in the knockout rounds, come September.
With Parramatta hot on their heels in the Club Championship, the Rams’ survival in the NPL 2 is on the line in the final 10 rounds of the season.
10 rounds to save your season. Survival starts now.
Can the Rams do it?
Source FNSW Website - By Ryan Latty