Rockdale City Suns’ elimination last weekend leaves Bonnyrigg White Eagles, Blacktown City, Blacktown Spartans and Sydney Olympic still in the race for the big prize in the IGA NPL NSW Mens 1 round 2 finals this weekend.
The major semi finals pits the premiers Bonnyrigg White Eagles against Blacktown City, who are coming home with a wet sail having put 10 past Blacktown Spartans in the last fortnight. Lambert Park hosts this match, which kicks off 5pm on Saturday..
Bonnyrigg’s late winner against Sydney Olympic, courtesy of Robbie Younis, saw them finish top of the pile and earn a week’s rest last weekend.
Brian “Bomber” Brown’s side is well adjusted to playing finals football and in Younis they have the top scorer in the competition.
The week off will have done them some good as they rest and recuperate after a gruelling regular season.
But, the week off can halt momentum and while they were resting, Blacktown City busily went about maintaining their run in their qualifying semi final last weekend.
Fresh from thrashing Spartans 7-0 in the final round, an in turn handing the premiership initiative to Bonnyrigg, Blacktown City showed their class as they registered a 3-0 win.
Their late season slump aside, Mark Crittenden’s side has been one of the leading lights of the NPL NSW Mens 1 this year.
The winner of this match will go straight to the grand final in a fortnight’s time, but the loser will get a second chance next weekend.
Sydney Olympic, who take on Spartans , also at Lambert Park on Sunday, have already survived one knock-out match, going through by the skin of their teeth in a thriller against Rockdale City Suns last weekend.
Olympic was 2-0 up at the break, but they were caught in the trap of defending too deep in the second period, especially once Marko Jesic put Rockdale back in the game. Olympic are indebted to their veteran keeper Paul Henderson for a late one-on-one save, otherwise this semi final could have a very different look.
Nevertheless, it has so far been a season of achievement for Olympic, and especially for coach Grant Lee, who had to pick up the pieces after Olympic’s internal struggles last year. He has moulded together a vibrant attacking outfit that is well capable of shaking up the competition in its final weeks.
Go Shirai, Taiga Soeda and Harris Gaitatzis are in great form, while Ryan Keir is the glue in midfield.
Spartans couldn’t recover from the psychological effects of their defeat crushing defeat to Blacktown City, going down again last weekend, 3-0.
It puts them in the remarkable position of needing only a point from the final round to win the premiership, to being in an elimination semi final only a fortnight later.
Their defence has been badly exposed in recent weeks but it is the mental trauma which they will need to address.
Olympic will have no fear and will attack Spartans with pace, and Ben de Haan’s side must show what they are made of or this season will become a distant memory.
More information about the competitions can be found at www.nplnsw.com.au