An experienced NPL coach once said that he doesn’t even look at the ladder before the 10th Round of the season. Presumably what he meant was that ladder positions after 10 rounds were a more accurate indicator of a team’s progress and performance than earlier rounds, and a better predictor of which teams would be there or thereabouts at season’s end.

With that in mind, a glance at the NPL 1 ladder going into this weekend’s 10th Round gives the casual observer the impression that any number of teams could feature in the grand final. In any case, last season’s domination of the competition by the four Greek clubs – Bentleigh Greens, Heidelberg United, South Melbourne, and Oakleigh Cannons – all of whom contested the league semifinals last season, is unlikely to be repeated this season.

The emergence of competition leaders Avondale, Hume City, and Pascoe Vale (all of whom currently sit in the top four) has ensured a greater competition. The current ladder shows a tight bunch of nine teams with just six points separating second-placed Hume City from 10th-placed South Melbourne.

Those two clash at Lakeside on Sunday in one of the matches of the round. South, after a dismal start to the season on the road, has won their last two matches, both at Lakeside. Hume on the other hand have been able to stifle opposition attacks even away from home, with four consecutive 1-0 victories including last week’s away win at Heidelberg United, one of the more prolific attacks in the league.

Before Sunday’s clash at Lakeside, the round kicks off on Friday night with third-placed Bentleigh Greens hosting league leader Avondale and fourth-placed Pascoe Vale hosting Heidelberg United. On the same evening, Melbourne Knights hosted Oakleigh Cannons.

A Greek derby completes Round 10 on Monday evening at the Grange in Clayton, where Kingston City host the improving Port Melbourne Sharks who have won points from two top four sides in the past fortnight including last weekend’s upset of the round, a 3-0 home win over Bentleigh Greens, thanks to some clinical finishing.

Kingston City has very short turnaround times before its midweek FFA Cup 6th Round match. The busy schedule is sure to test the depth of those NPL squads remaining in the Cup.

There are eight FFA Cup matches, six of which are in the coming week, with quarterfinal places at stake. Clubs will be especially keen to progress knowing they are just two wins from a semifinal berth and a place in the national stage of the competition. The full list of 6th Round FFA Cup matches is shown below, followed by the quarterfinal draw for the Women’s Team App Cup competition.

Men’s 6th Round FFA Cup Draw:
· Bentleigh Greens v Morwell Pegasus Tuesday 25 April 3.00 pm
· Moreland City v Oakleigh Cannons Wednesday 26 April 7.30 pm CB Smith Reserve
· South Melbourne v Box Hill United Thursday 26 April 7.30 pm Lakeside Stadium
· Dandenong City v Melbourne Knights Thursday 26 April 7.30 pm TBA
· Heidelberg United v Kingston City Thursday 26 April 7.30 pm TBA
· North Sunshine v Hume City Thursday 26 April 7.30 pm TBA
· Port Melbourne Sharks v Northcote City Tuesday 2 May 8.00 pm JL Murphy Reserve
· Avondale v Green Gully 3/05/17 Wednesday 3 May 8.00 pm Knights Stadium

Team APP Cup Quarter Finals:
See FFV website for dates and venues
1. Calder United v Heidelberg United
2. South Melbourne v Southern United
3. Keilor Park v FC Bulleen Lions
4. Box Hill United v Geelong Galaxy / Croydon City Arrows