Three rounds remain and three title contenders could become two following Round Twenty-Eight of the Football New South Wales League Two Men’s season.
Ladder-leaders UNSW FC have the bye this week and hold a six-point lead over the Newcastle Jets heading into the weekend.
Before those matches, however, Sydney University SFC host the Western Rage in a Round Twenty-Six catch-up match.
Wednesday, 9th August 2023
Sydney University SFC vs Western Rage, 7:30pm at Sydney University Football Ground
Previous Meeting: Western Rage 0-5 Sydney University SFC
Both sides are level on 24 points heading into this catch-up clash and will hope for a big victory which will take them one step closer to avoiding a last-placed finish.
Sydney University SFC were gallant but were pressured in a 3-0 loss away to the Newcastle Jets last week, while the Western Rage picked up a second-straight 3-2 win after a stoppage time winner gave them all three points at home to Bankstown United FC.
Uni put on a five-star performance the last time these two sides met and will hope to repeat the dose; however, with both sides playing three matches in a week, expect plenty of rotation from the two sides in this match.
12th-placed Sydney University SFC will hope to turn their positive play into goals this week, something they have failed to do in their past three matches.
They can hold their own across the pitch but will need to eliminate mistakes at the back; if they can, they will have a solid base to launch from.
Against a side which has scored ten goals across their past three matches, Uni will be up against it in defence and so a leader must step up in attack; look for a much better attacking display from the students in this match.
The 14th-placed Western Rage are level on 24 points with Uni and will hope to climb as many as two places with a victory this week.
They will hope to hold possession and create plenty of chances once again as they look to continue to cause problems, particularly in attack.
Their second half of the season has shown a different side to their team and they will be more than hopeful of reversing their 5-0 loss against Uni from the reverse fixture; look for the Rage to fire up.
With both sides looking to field rotated lineups, perhaps fluency in play won’t be seen but a fight to pick up a crucial three points will be seen as the two teams look to finish the season as high as they can.
Friday, 11th August 2023
Match of the Round: Nepean FC vs South Coast Flame FC, 8pm at Wanderers Football Park
Previous Meeting: South Coast Flame FC 1-1 Nepean FC
It is do or die for Nepean FC – a win keeps them not only in the title race, but keeps them in strong contention for the all-important 2nd-place finish for the promotion play-off; South Coast Flame FC will be out to spoil the party.
Nepean FC are fresh off a bye and a 4-1 home win over Parramatta FC the week before; their troops will be fit and ready to fight for every victory while South Coast Flame FC face another tough assignment following their 2-0 away loss to league-leaders UNSW FC last week.
This was a 4th vs 5th clash when these two sides last met; the spoils were shared on that occasion in wet conditions, but with the two sides in vastly contrasting form this time around, expect a dominant performance from the home side in terms of possession, which they hope will yield a result.
3rd-placed Nepean FC will need to finish the season perfectly and hope UNSW FC and the Newcastle Jets drop points if they are to clinch the League Two Men’s title; otherwise, a top-two finish is a must.
They will hope their physicality across the pitch will tire out the Flame this week; they come into this match ten games unbeaten, with five wins and five draws in that time.
Expect Nepean to come out firing early and create plenty of chances, while with a few weapons on the bench, they will show plenty of fight until the final minute of the match once again.
10th-placed South Coast Flame FC could not record back-to-back victories as they fell 2-0 away to UNSW FC last week and will face an equally-tough challenge in another title challenger.
They will hope to give a good account for themselves once again, with the likes of Matthew Mazevski, Adam Voloder and Alexander Alston looking to lead in attack.
A win could move them up into 8th, while a loss could drop them down to 11th; another motivating factor will be the chance to play the ultimate spoiler to Nepean’s season, where a loss would end their title hopes for good.
A win is critical this week for Nepean FC and South Coast Flame FC will know as much – there promises to be plenty of chances in this match as both sides look to prove themselves towards the end of the season.
Camden Tigers FC vs Parramatta FC, 7:30pm at Ron Dine Memorial Reserve, Carbiz Stadium
Previous Meeting: Parramatta FC 4-2 Camden Tigers FC
A western Sydney clash will see two sides hoping to end their season on a high clash.
Camden Tigers FC have driven up the ladder and took another step towards an unlikely top-half finish with a 4-2 away win over Prospect United SC last week, while Parramatta FC fell 4-1 to fellow western Sydney side, Nepean FC.
Parramatta earned all three points the last time these two sides met this season and will hope for a league double which would boost their chances of avoiding last place this season.
8th-placed Camden Tigers FC are an outside chance of a top-half finish this season but will push until the end to ensure they give themselves the best chance of that, despite not being in the top half since the end of Round Ten.
They sit on 33 points, four points behind the teams in 5th, 6th and 7th and will hope to put the pressure on and close the gap with two matches to go in their season with their bye next week.
The Tigers will look to go at Parramatta early, get in the dogfight and utilise the skill in their squad to score as soon as they can.
13th-placed Parramatta FC had their match against Gladesville Ryde Magic postponed due to a light failure last week and will hope the extra time to prepare for this week’s match will help them.
They sit just four points above last place but will be hopeful of gaining crucial points which will help them end the season on a high.
Following back-to-back defeats, the Hawks will hope to get back to the play which saw them record back-to-back victories beforehand; look for plenty of passion to be on show from them.
The Tigers are buying into their game plan and building towards a strong end to the season as they plan for the next, while Parramatta are hoping to finish the season as high up the ladder as they can; expect plenty of chances for the Tigers and for Parramatta to deliver a response.
Sydney University SFC vs Hurstville FC, 7:45pm at Sydney University Football Ground
Previous Meeting: Hurstville FC 2-0 Sydney University SFC
Both sides have endured a tough period lately and will be hopeful of gaining a positive result as Sydney University SFC and Hurstville FC meet in the bottom half of the ladder.
Uni were dangerous without a clinical edge in their 3-0 away loss to the Newcastle Jets in last week’s Match of the Round, while Hurstville FC put in a dominant display but were heartbroken late in their 1-1 draw at home to Fraser Park FC.
Hurstville scored two goals in two minutes in the second half of their Match of the Round, Round Thirteen clash between these two sides, and will hope for a league double, which would boost them back up the ladder and potentially put a seven-point gap between themselves and the bottom four sides.
12th-placed Sydney University SFC have failed to score in each of their past three matches, despite their ability to hold the ball and progress it up the field well.
Expect a rotated line-up from their mid-week clash as a third match in a week may potentially catch up with them.
A win could move them above Hurstville if they win their catch-up match and potentially above South Coast Flame FC; expect Uni to fight like usual and have a focus on their finishing this week.
11th-placed Hurstville FC will hope to win a first match in a first match in seven rounds this week; they have endured a tough period with only one point from their last possible eighteen.
With eight starters out injured, they have fought hard in every match lately and they will look to attack with high intensity from the first minute.
The win is coming for Hurstville; they will hope a matchup against a side they are hoping to stave off on the ladder will be the final push they need to turn their good performances into three points.
Plenty of fight will be on display for both teams as they look to end the season on a high note, both with different aims; all signs point to there being a winner in this one, with a lot of lessons learnt.
Fraser Park FC vs Bankstown United FC, 8pm at Fraser Park
Previous Meeting: Bankstown United FC 2-0 Fraser Park FC
A crucial battle for positions in the top half sees Fraser Park FC host Bankstown United FC.
Fraser Park escaped with a 1-1 away draw last week thanks to a last-minute goal, while Bankstown United FC lost back-to-back matches for the first time since Round Twelve after their 3-2 away loss to the Western Rage.
Bankstown picked up the three points in the Round Thirteen clash between these two sides and will hope for a league double which could propel them to within one point of 4th-placed Gladesville Ryde Magic.
7th-placed Fraser Park FC will hope to put in a strong shift and return home after back-to-back away matches with a win which could move them to within a point of the Magic, also.
Their matches have proved to be tight lately and a similarly-close affair is expected this week, as the winner will take a big step to finishing ahead of the other come season’s end.
If they can return to their form of collecting clean sheets, they will hope to have a moment of magic at the other end as they chase the important victory.
5th-placed Bankstown United FC are hoping to finish the season as high as they can and will want to respond to back-to-back 3-2 defeats with a strong performance this week.
With a squad which has also found a 30-week season to be a lot, they will hope to conjure up some energy to finish the season in 5th, or as high as 4th.
Expect them to fire with Mitchell Cross still chasing the top goal-scorer mantle; he will hope to lead his side to another important victory.
Both sides will want to avoid a late-season slip-up which could see them finish outside the top half altogether; expect a tight affair where chances may be at a premium.
Saturday, 12th August 2023
Inner West Hawks FC vs Western Rage, 1pm at Arlington Oval
Previous Meeting: Western Rage 0-1 Inner West Hawks FC
A true battle to avoid bottom sees last-placed Inner West Hawks FC host the 14th-placed Western Rage, where plenty of pride will be on the line.
The Hawks lost to Hawkesbury 2-0 last week as their harsh end to the season continued, while the Rage recorded back-to-back victories after they overcame Bankstown United FC 3-2.
Inner West were victorious in the Round Thirteen matchup between these two sides thanks to a first-half goal from Peter Phillips; they will be hopeful of a league double which would give them a strong chance of avoiding a last-place finish this season.
The Hawks sit in 15th and have endured a tough period without plenty of players; they will hope to welcome back a few of them this week, including Hesan Soufi from suspension, as well as potentially Peter Yannopoulos and Marcus Apostolakis.
They have not been press-resistant and have found troubles playing out from their own defensive third lately; they will hope to make success in those areas a priority moving forward.
The team will have to keep their belief up and know they can be successful; with plenty of teenagers getting expensive, the Hawks are hoping it will hold them in good stead heading into the future and it will yield a result against the Rage this week, which could close the gap to the teams above to one point.
The 14th-placed Western Rage will head into this clash just three days after facing Sydney University SFC in their catch-up match, meaning a few players will play fatigued with three matches played in a week.
Pending results, two wins could move them as high as 11th, which would be quite the finish for a side who sat last for a large part of the season.
With eleven goals scored from their past three matches, look for the Rage to provide plenty of entertainment as they hunt a potentially fourth-straight win for the first time this season.
For these two teams, a win in this clash could not be more crucial as the season draws to an end; expect the Rage to control plenty of the ball and create chances, while the Hawks hope some players returning will bring a return in fortune.
Sunday, 13th August 2023
Gladesville Ryde Magic vs Hawkesbury City FC, 2:30pm at Christie Park
Previous Meeting: Hawkesbury City FC 3-2 Gladesville Ryde Magic
Two teams with high hopes of victory will meet at Christie Park as Gladesville Ryde Magic look to take down the formidable Hawkesbury City FC.
Gladesville Ryde Magic had their match against Parramatta FC last week postponed due to a light failure, while Hawkesbury City FC won a sixth-consecutive match following their 2-0 success over Inner West Hawks FC.
A second-half comeback from two goals down saw the Hawks take away all three points in the earlier clash between these two teams this season; expect plenty more goals this time around, too.
4th-placed Gladesville Ryde Magic will hope to continue their impressive season but will have to end it strongly if they hope to finish in 4th; they could end as high as 3rd or as low as 7th.
The Magic will hope the extra week off will help them prepare following their 5-3 loss at home to UNSW FC the week before; their squad will have had plenty of rest.
Looking to end their impressive season on a high, expect the Magic to be fully rested and ready to tackle one of the toughest challenges in the league, currently.
9th-placed Hawkesbury City FC are looking to win a seventh-straight match and go eight unbeaten as they look to hunt an unlikely top-half finish.
Six points behind the top half, they will hope to capitalise on any slip-ups but regardless will be proud of their comeback this season, given they were in last place only seven rounds ago.
With an attack firing, expect the likes of Vincent D’ermillio, Harry Drew and Gregory Kondek to be a real threat for the Hawks once again.
The battle for positions in the top half will go down to the final day and this match will see position versus form; which one will prevail?
Prospect United SC vs Newcastle Jets, 7:30pm at William Lawson Park
Previous Meeting: Newcastle Jets 0-1 Prospect United SC
It is a must-win clash for the Newcastle Jets in their battle for the League Two Men’s title and promotion as they travel to face Prospect United SC.
Prospect lost a fifth match from their past seven as their drop to end the season continued with a 4-2 home loss to Camden Tigers FC, while the Newcastle Jets put the pressure on Nepean FC to take back 2nd spot and closed the gap to six points with a game in hand over UNSW FC at the top with a 3-0 home win over Sydney University SFC.
One of the Jets’ five losses so far this season came at home to Prospect in Round Thirteen and they will need to avoid a repeat as a loss would be almost fatal to their chances of winning the league, while Prospect would like the league double to finish the season as high up the top half of the ladder as they can.
6th-placed Prospect United SC will hope to add a massive scalp to their wins this season as they look to play spoiler to the Newcastle Jets’ push for the League Two Men’s title.
Prospect, themselves, sit on 37 points alongside Bankstown United FC and Fraser Park FC; they will hope to finish the season the highest of those sides.
With a young squad which has found the length and pressure of the season to be a lot, expect them to want to finish as strongly as they can, where a top-four finish is still in reach.
The 2nd-placed Newcastle Jets will hope to capitalise on UNSW FC’s bye this week and will look to close the gap to three points with two matches to play.
They will be prepared for how tough Prospect will be to face away from home; look for them to mix up their game plan to play through the middle, play around and play over Prospect.
Expect to see the Jets look to continue their good run of form as they hope to go eight matches unbeaten and continue their charge, where a top-two finish will be the minimum they aim for this season.
With a title charge on the line, Prospect will hope to be the ultimate spoiler to the Newcastle Jets’ season, who will hope to put pressure on UNSW FC with two rounds to go following this week.
By Football New South Wales League Two Men’s Reporter, Dylan Costa @_dylancosta