Crunch time is fast approaching in the National Premier Leagues 3 NSW Men’s competition, with round 22 to provide us with a better indication of who will still be lacing up their boots come the second week of September.
SD Raiders FC will kick off the round when they face Inter Lions FC at Ernie Smith Reserve on Saturday afternoon at 3pm.
Hot on the heels of 2nd placed Bankstown City, Raiders are enjoying a strong end to the season as they look to leapfrog the Lions and secure a top two finish.
A hattrick from Ben Welch away to Hawkesbury last week saw the Raiders dispatch of the Hawks with ease but this weekend will prove a whole lot more difficult as they face the men from Concord.
An uncharacteristically poor performance by Inter Lions was taken advantage of by their matchday opponents, Dulwich Hill, in their encounter last Saturday.
Despite the defeat, they retained 5th position and are still in with a shout of catching 4th placed Gladesville Ryde Magic who hold a four-point lead.
Raiders ran out convincing 4-0 winners the last time these two sides met, however expect this upcoming encounter to be a more evenly fought contest.
An eye-catching bottom half of the table tie will take place at Melita Stadium on Saturday night as Parramatta FC host Hawkesbury City FC with proceedings set to get underway from 6:30pm.
It appeared that Parramatta may have played themselves into the form book at the beginning of July as they secured consecutive wins in the competition for the first time this season.
However, their form has since waivered with two defeats in their last two outings against highflying Raiders and Gladesville.
Their opponents, Hawkesbury City have also experienced a rocky run of form and are without a win since the end of June.
Ryan Faulkner and Kwadwo Boamah-Addai got the goals in their first-round fixture in a 2-1 win in early May, with both sides ending the game with 10 men.
Two sides making a late dash for the coveted top six will go head to head at Arlington Oval on Saturday night as Dulwich Hill FC face off against Dunbar Rovers FC at 7pm.
Last week’s win against Inter marked the end of a three-match losing streak for Dulwich Hill which saw them rise to 8th on the league table.
They currently sit eight points outside the top six, however all three points against Dunbar on Saturday will see them leapfrog their opponents into 7th spot.
Dunbar have struggled to back up their performances with points on the board each week. A 7-0 thrashing against the Mariners last time out has done wonders for their goal difference, however defeats in their two previous away fixtures has hampered their chances of breaking into the top six.
The corresponding fixture saw Dulwich Hill claim a 2-0 victory at Hensley Athletic Field, and they will be hoping for much of the same as they look to make the cut for finals football.
Expect goals galore at Jensen Park as free scoring Bankstown City FC welcome Western NSW Mariners this Saturday night for a 7pm kick off.
Bankstown may be 2nd on the league table but they do lead the league in one important category – goals scored.
The Lions have notched 65 goals this season thanks to the effort of captain Nikola Todoroski and Ante Tomic among others.
Their opponents could not be in more contrasting form with a whopping 64 goals conceded so far this campaign.
The first time these two sides met, Bankstown ran out 5-1 winners in Bathurst, and it looks more than likely that we can expect a repeat of that result or something very similar to that score line this time around.
Camden Tigers FC will be keen to return to winning ways at home when they host Granville Rage at Ron Dine Stadium, the kick off scheduled for 7pm on Saturday night.
Camden’s almost impeccable home form took a hit last week when Stanmore Hawks came to visit. The league leaders smashed the Tigers 4-0, handing down the hosts their heaviest defeat at Ron Dine this season.
Prior to that encounter, Camden had enjoyed back to back home victories against Magic and Hawkesbury respectively, scoring 10 goals over the course of those two fixtures.
They will be hoping of a return to that form when they face Granville, who are in second last place with just the three wins to their name.
However, Rage will be quietly confident arriving into this round after their latest win came last weekend when they came out on top against Bankstown United.
The reverse fixture at Garside Park ended in a 0-0 stalemate, one of the few goalless fixtures we have had over the course of this year’s competition.
Bankstown United FC will be out for revenge when they make the trip to Sydney University Football Ground on Saturday night to do battle with Sydney University SFC, the match set to get underway at 7pm.
Sydney Uni are another side which have found it difficult to produce a solid string of results with each of their last two wins followed up by a defeat.
They currently occupy 11th place and could drop to a season low of 12th if they are beaten by United and Parramatta overcome Hawkesbury this weekend.
Winless in their last three fixtures, it seems that Bankstown have lost momentum at the worst possible time as we approach the crunch stage of the season.
United were humbled 2-1 by Rage last round and are fortunate not to have lost touch with 5th placed Inter after they too fell to defeat last week.
Their round 9 fixture on May 4 ended 5-1 in favour of the ‘students’, a similar result could have serious ramifications for United’s finals hopes.
Gladesville Ryde Magic and Stanmore Hawks FC will wrap up round 22 on Sunday afternoon when they meet at Christie Park at 3pm.
4th plays 1st in this eye-catching encounter as Magic look to close the five-point gap between them and rivals Raiders and Bankstown City, while Hawks will be striving to keep hold of their sizeable lead at the summit of the ladder.
Gladesville finally returned to winning ways last weekend away to Parramatta and they will hope that has sparked an upturn in fortune as they approach the run in.
Stanmore once again proved why they are top of the table when they tore apart Camden last Saturday, many would have expected them to fall short against the Tigers in their backyard.
Another three points against Magic would mark their seventh straight victory as they gear up for testing ties against Raiders and the Lions over the next fortnight.
In the corresponding tie at Arlington Oval, it was Stanmore who came out on top 2-0 thanks to a brace from Conor Quilligan.
-By NPL 3 NSW Men’s Chief Writer Samuel Greco Schwartz (Twitter handle: @SamuelGS97)
#Photo by Paul Strickland