Round 26 – NPL 3 NSW Men’s Preview
So after six gruelling months of week-in, week-out competitive football, the 2018 National Premier Leagues 3 NSW Men’s competition comes to a halt with the twenty-sixth and final round this weekend.
The Premiership and Club Championship titles have been decided, and congratulations to St George City FA for winning both honours.
But there is still plenty to play for, as Sydney University hope for a last day slip up by Dunbar Rovers in their quest to play finals football, whilst positions 2 to 5 on the ladder are far from clear, with 5 points separating the four teams looking to shuffle spots this weekend.
All matches in the final round are scheduled to occur simultaneously, all kicking off at the traditional time of 3pm on Sunday afternoon, so let’s take a closer view of what we can look forward to.
Sydney University have come a long way not to give it one final shot when they travel to Marconi Stadium to meet SD Raiders.
On the back of a momentous run of one loss across their final 16 games, Sydney Uni find themselves in 7th spot on 41 points, just 2 points behind 6th placed Dunbar Rovers, needing to win to have any hope of snaring a finals berth.
The Raiders themselves are guaranteed a semi final the following week, but they will be out to win and carry some momentum in to the finals, given the result here will determine that they will finish 3rd, 4th or 5th.
The ‘students’ won the corresponding first round fixture back on June 2 by 3-0, with goals from Jovan Blagojevic, Scott Tonkin and Daniel Mifsud, and a repeat scoreline will do very nicely indeed for Sydney Uni this time around.
Hawkesbury City entertain Bankstown City at David Bertenshaw Field, knowing that a win will guarantee the Hawks hanging on to their 2nd spot on the ladder, and a subsequent first week off in the finals.
Siting 2nd on 51 points, Hawkesbury are just 2 points ahead of Gladesville Ryde Magic, and a slip up could allow Magic to hurdle them in to second position.
The scenario is the same for Bankstown as it is for the Raiders – they could finish anywhere from 3rd to 5th with a finals spot guaranteed.
The first round encounter on June 3 ended 3-1 to the Lions, after the Hawks let a 1-1 draw slip late on in the game – expect a sterner resolve this time from Hawkesbury as they attempt to hold on to second spot.
Gladesville Ryde Magic should grab all three points at Christie Park against wooden spooners, Fraser Park, given the two teams’ respective positions on the competition ladder.
As mentioned earlier, 3rd placed Magic will hope that the Hawks slip up, and a three pointer here will give them the coveted runner up position on the ladder.
But all eyes will be on striker Michael Gaitatzis, who will be trying to add to his 29 goals and snare the golden boot, something he currently shares with Jayden Russell of Camden.
Dunbar Rovers have their finals aspirations in their own hands when they travel to Arlington Oval to tackle Dulwich Hill.
With the resurgent Sydney Uni breathing down their necks just 2 points adrift, the pressure will be on for the Rovers to grab all three points, especially given the game coincides with the final match of a couple of Dully’s favourite players.
Carlo Musumeci and Michael Frost will retire after this game, so the Dully team will be looking to send them out in a big way, hoping that Frost, especially, can keep a clean sheet in his final outing.
In the other matches in this final round, Jayden Russell will be out to add to his 29 goals and snatch the golden boot when Camden Tigers meet Inter Lions at Fraser Park, Premiers St George City FA have a tough road trip when they face a Granville Rage side whose recent form has been as purple as their jerseys, and Stanmore Hawks will make the trek to Orange hoping to bring all three points home from their match against the Western NSW Mariners.