For the first time since the 2003/2004 season, a Fairfield-based team will not contest the NSW State League finals after Sydney United 58 FC blew a two goal lead against Manly to end their National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 campaign on Sunday.
Goals to star strikers Chris Payne and Panni Nikas had the Reds on track for an important win in the penultimate round of the competition before the hosts rallied with goals to Marco Sama (67th), Dejan Pandurevic (72nd) and Travis Cooper (85th minute) to eliminate the 2016 premiers from the championship race.
It means the Reds remain on 33 points after consecutive losses – four points behind Sydney Olympic heading into their final round clash against Blacktown City on Sunday.
A loss in that game will mirror their start to the season where they opened with three straight losses meaning they were forced to play catch up for the entire season.
All is not lost for the Reds for season 2017.
On Wednesday (August 9), they host Far North Queensland Heat in the FFA Cup round of 32.
It’s the fourth straight year they have made this stage of the competition after gaining automatic qualification after winning last season's National Premier Leagues final series.
The two clubs met at the same stage of the inaugural FFA Cup in 2014 and United won 4-1.
United enter the clash with new coaches after the club announced coach Mark Rudan will take a step back and act as a mentor to Jerry Bilokapic and Tomi Vidovic who will take over for the remainder of the season.
Rudan, who answered and SOS from the club to coach earlier this season, said United was a “special club”.
“When Sydney United 58 FC came calling it was hard to say no,” he said.
“It's a special club, the supporters are second to none, the coaching staff are superb.”
Meanwhile, Bonnyrigg suffered their 13th loss of the season going down to Sydney FC 3-1. The White Eagles conceded goals to John Iredale either side of the break to stay in ninth place on the ladder heading into their final round clash against bottom-placed Parramatta FC on Sunday.
In other football news, Marconi are on track to return to the top flight after claiming the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 2 Premiership at the weekend with a 2-0 win against Blacktown Spartans.
The Stallions now have an 18 point lead at the top of the ladder with three rounds remaining.
- Sydney United 58 v FNQ Heat, Wednesday August 9, Sydney United Sports Centre, 7:30pm.