Sutherland Sharks? exceptional run of fifteen unbeaten matches in the TeleChoice Premier League will be tested on Saturday evening as title contenders Sydney United host the Shire team at Sydney United Sports Centre.
The Sharks demonstrated their ability to ?suffer? yet still grind out results last weekend against Sydney Olympic ? a characteristic of all great football sides the world over.
Brian Brown has a confident bunch of players at his disposal with the amazing improvements of his younger group paying huge dividends.
Brendan Gan and Pedj Bojic have been in tremendous touch, along with the goal scoring exploits of target-man Brad Boardman.
Captain George Souris has led with experience from the back, his influence on the younger players around him has certainly rubbed off.
For Sydney United, the home clash is a huge opportunity to cut the Sharks? lead down to four-points, though Ivan Petkovic?s men will definitely need to lift their game following the less than inspiring performance against West Sydney Berries despite collecting the three-points.
In-form Christopher Boyle got the late winner against the Berries, and against the Sharks his presence ? along with that of his fellow midfielder Petar Markovic ? will be vital for the Reds? hopes of handing the Sharks their first loss of the season.
At Penrith?s CUA Stadium, Penrith-Nepean United will be looking to build on their two consecutive draws following their worst run of the season ? a horrible run of results in May that included two 7-0 hidings.
Abbas Saad?s men produced a spirited performance to take a point from Bankstown City at Jensen Park. Panagiotis Nikas? performance led Penrith?s charge out of midfield, as did Jason Browne with his exceptional ?goal poacher?s? finish against the Lions.
Marconi Stallions too have been on a good run of form. The Stallions are now ten matches without defeat ? Tiger Turf Cup matches included ? signaling a much steadier run for David Barrett?s men who had a nightmare first-half of the season.
Positives for the Stallions include Tolgay Ozbey?s return amongst the goals, along with the great form of Ante Deur out of the Stallions midfield.
On Sunday, Sydney Olympic and Blacktown City Demons meet at Belmore Sports Ground. The defending Champion?s season has been forgettable in terms of results, though Ken Schembri has managed to get some good football from his young group of players.
Sydney Olympic will need three points to keep alive their slight hopes of troubling the top-two sides on the ladder in the run towards the play-offs, though their positioning on the ladder could be a lot healthier by Sunday.
The Blues face Bankstown City on Wednesday evening in the Round 6 ?catch-up? match, a big chance for Sydney Olympic to state their case for a top-two finish.
Macarthur Rams will need to bounce back quickly from their horrendous loss to Wollongong FC last weekend when they face Bankstown City at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
Paul Carter?s men had made a big improvement leading into the Wolves encounter, though certainly did take ?two-steps back? with the Round 15 defeat.
Bankstown City is another side that has struggled to get their campaign on track. Peter Tsekenis & Co. have failed to find consistency in terms of results in the current campaign, despite showcasing some of the best football in the League.
Sunday?s ?Match of the Round? takes place at Cromer Park as Manly United line-up against Wollongong FC. The Wolves made a tremendous return to form against Macarthur Rams last weekend, re-asserting their intentions following an inconsistent run of results throughout the month of May.
Manly United have seen their grip on top-spot slip as Sutherland Sharks have skipped away to a six-point lead over Phil Moss? men.
Moss will be eager to rectify the defensive lapses against Marconi last weekend as his side only came away with a draw against the Stallions despite scoring three goals.
In the last match for the Round, A.P.I.A.-Leichhardt Tigers faint chances of a top-five finish go under the microscope as West Sydney Berries visit Lambert Park.
The Tigers are win-less since the 7-0 thumping handed out to Penrith-Nepean United in Round 11.
John Romeo?s men only just scraped a point at Gabbie Stadium last weekend with a late equaliser against the Demons, meanwhile their opponents the Berries too have not had the results going their way.
New coach Ramsin Shamon ? in-charge of the squad since Scott Baillie?s departure two weeks ago ? has delivered two impressive displays, though a draw in difficult conditions against Penrith-Nepean and a heart-breaking loss against Sydney United after dominating the encounter last weekend leave the Berries nine-points away from fifth-spot.
-By Joseph Carlucci