Blacktown Spartans kept the premiership in their own hands with a 2-1 win over APIA-Leichhardt Tigers at Lambert Park.
The win lifts Spartans two points clear ahead of the White Eagles and Spartans' goal difference means that a draw against Blacktown City next weekend should be enough to secure the premiership.
Mitchell Long, on loan from Bonnyrigg White Eagles, was the match winner, scoring twice from close range either side of Blake Powell's goal early in the second half.
APIA had a string of opportunities when the score was level but they failed to capitalise, as has been the case on so many occasions in a season to forget for the Tigers.
Spartans youngster Conor Evans was lively early on, shooting wide in the seventh minute and it took APIA until the 21st minute to muster a shot on target, but Brad McDonaldwas denied by Carlos Saliadarre.
Shortly after, a free kick from Phil Makrys found the head of Luka Dukic whowhen he headed the cross back across goal, Long was on the spot to prod the ball home from close range.
The goal sparked APIA into life and Franco Parisi was at the heart of everything positive for the Tigers, pulling the strings in midfield. He created a wonderful chance for Powell, but he too was denied by Saliadarre.
APIA came out firing in the second half with Parisi playing deeper with more time, suiting his pinpoint passing down to the ground, and he barely wasted a pass throughout a fantastic 90 minute performance.
A sumptuous through ball by the APIA number 10 split the Spartans defence and found Powell but he was denied one-on-one by the imposing Saliadarre.
Weight of pressure that eventually saw the home side equalise with only six minutes of the second half played.
Powell was rewarded for his typically high work-rate with a well-taken goal as he slotted his finish to level.
From there, APIA could well have gone on to win the game, but they did not take their chances while Spartans did.
Phil Makrys smashed a long drive against the bar and Daniel Fogarty’s poor touch wasted a one-on-one and Brad McDonald’s tame finish wasted a third chance.
Immediately after, a surging run by Evans cross to the back post, where the unmarked Long tapped in the match winning goal.
APIA coach Billy McColl was once again happy with the performance of the team but lamented the missed opportunities.
‘‘I'm very happy with the performance, they followed instructions and the game plan was spot on," McColl said.
‘‘But until we take chances, defeats will continue.’’
Blacktown Spartans’ keeper, Saliadarre said his team was now focused on doing the job next weekend.
‘‘We pushed hard today so we could keep [the competition] in control. It's a big game next weekend, a derby to finish the regular season.
‘‘We've got to be up for it and work hard because it's going to be one hell of a game.’’
APIA-Leichhardt Tigers 1 (Blake Powell 51')
Blacktown Spartans 2 (Mitchell Long 23', 71')
Sunday August 10, 2014
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Referee: Ryan Shepheard
APIA-Leichhardt Tigers: 1.Andrew Bazi; 3.Jamie Lobb, 4.Bradley Bartels, 5.Michael West (C), 6.Marc Warren, 7.Stephen Kayes, 8.Bradley McDonald, 9.Blake Powell, 10.Franco Parisi, 11.Daniel Fogarty (15.Matthew Mayora 88'), 13.David D'Apuzzo
Substitutes not used: 40.Stefan Giglio, 14.Luke Clifford, 19.Joe Gibbs, 20.Ali Nasreddine
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
Blacktown Spartans: 1.Carlos Saliadarre (C); 3.Nathan Millgate, 5.Luka Dukic, 7.Phil Makrys, 8.Ray Miller, 9.Elsid Barkhousir (6.Greg Kondek 82'), 10.Emmanuel Giannaros, 13.Corey Biczo, 14.Jacob Ott, 15.Mitchell Long, 39.Conor Evans (20.Tomislav Cirjak 89')
Substitutes not used: 41.Domenic Nascimben, 16.Benjamin Tosi, 18.Zachary Freeburn
Yellow Cards: Nathan Millgate 37', Ray Miller 76', Phil Makrys 90+2'
Red Cards: Nil