A ten-man Blacktown Spartans outfit have continued their recent purple patch with a hard-fought 3-1 win over a gallant South Coast Wolves on a cool and crisp Saturday evening at Rooty Hill’s Blacktown Football Park.
In a free-flowing, end-to-end entertaining encounter – where the score-line didn’t necessarily depict the flow of the game – the outcome of the match was anyone’s to take as both sides failed to capitalise on the numerous chances created.
The Wolves, as has been the case all season long, came out of the blocks with all guns blazing and it was new addition to the team Steve Hayes who fired off a shot wide of the right post in the 3’ minute to ensure that the home side knew that they had a fight on their hands.
The Spartans returned fire almost immediately when the energetic Gregory Kondek launched a nice cross from the right to find the head of Japanese import Jun Kato whose angled header just sailed wide of the right post.
Kato was again in the thick of the action soon after when his shot from the edge of the penalty area was blocked by the Wolves defence that saw the ball ricochet out to an awaiting Zac Freeburn whose rushed shot sailed high over the crossbar.
A counterattack by the Wolves in the 10’ minute was beautifully orchestrated by Hayes who brought the ball nicely out of his own half and lofted a perfectly weighted ball to an awaiting Ricky Zucco. The quick thinking Wolves striker then sent a nice ball out wide to the fast-finishing Mitchell Del Turco whose first touch was tad too long that resulted in not only a realistic missed opportunity, but a sickening collision between Del Turco and the fearless Spartans keeper Carlos Saliadarre.
Both players recovered after the nasty knock, but a harsher pain was felt throughout the entire Wolves pack when a controversial handball penalty was awarded against them just three minutes later after referee Ryan Shepheard adjudicated that young defender Zac Mackenzie had intentionally touched the ball within the box.
New Spartans signing and experienced campaigner Phillip Makrys made no mistake as he slotted the ball past Wolves keeper Daniel Collison to open the scoring for the home side in the 13’ minute.
The Wolves almost leveled the ledger 3’ minutes later through a set play of their own when the always dangerous Zucco drove a low rising free-kick hard into the crossbar from 35-metres out with such vigor that is sure to keep the Blacktown Football Park groundsman busy for most of the next week panel beating out the resultant dent.
Despite dropping an early goal the Wolves dominance continued throughout the mid-sector of the first half when Zucco again combined with the crafty Hayes in the 19’ minute. Zucco’s ability to step defenders is unparalleled in the IGA National Premier League NSW Mens 1 competition and when he faked to the left to fool two would-be Spartans defenders in the middle of the park, only to step back to the right to deliver a flying Hayes a perfect ball to have him one-on-one with the keeper, it was only a poor first touch from the blonde midfielder that denied the visitors a much-deserved equaliser.
The Spartans managed to stem the Wolves onslaught and settled proceedings down to a more comfortable pace towards the back end of the opening half through some enterprising play by experienced campaigners Makrys, Kondek and Bryan Soane. And it was Soane in particular who began to get in behind a tiring Wolves defensive line and could have doubled his side’s lead in the 27’ minute after a nice cross found the head of Freeburn who was unable to angle the ball down and watched it sail over the crossbar.
The small but parochial home fans didn’t have to wait too much longer for their side to find the safety of a second goal as yet another controversial penalty was awarded against the visitors in the 30’ minute when the unfortunate Mackenzie was deemed to have charged the effervescent Kondek as he attempted to shelter an innocuous ball over the line for a goal kick.
Makrys once again made no mistake and despite the evenness of the contest, the score board showed that the Spartans had skipped out to a two goal lead and could have made it a third in the 35’ minute when Kondek’s overhead kick sailed just shy of the crossbar.
The Wolves never-say-die attitude came to the forefront in the 37’ minute when a ‘Zucco special’ from outside of the penalty area slammed into the top of the crossbar and could have reaped the benefit of a replay given the amount of movement of the net behind.
Zucco’s footballing brilliance was again on display in the 43’ minute when he chipped a ball from the right side into the box that had defenders and attackers alike beat to see yet another potential Wolves opportunity fall by the wayside and ensure that the Spartans maintained a two goal advantage heading into the break.
The second-half began with a flurry of opportunities from both sides, and it was the dangerous left boot of the Spartans’ Daniel Wilkinson who could have put the game to bed in the 50’ minute when his freakish power shot from a good 40-metres out tested the Wolves custodian who was equal to the task with his tip over the crossbar to deny the chance.
A minute later saw the Wolves claw their way back into the game when a penalty of their own was awarded when Simonoski was deemed to have been brought down in the box by a Spartans defender where Zucco converted from the spot to give notice that his side was well and truly back into the game.
The Spartans however, immediately stepped up a notch and could have had the two goal buffer reinstated in the 55’ minute when Soane’s on-target shot from the left was only denied by a brilliant reflex save by Collison.
In a game that continually had the spectators on the edge of their seat with end-to-end themed entertainment, the Wolves seemingly answered every attack with a counterattack of their own and an equaliser appeared a formality when Del Turco found himself one-on-one with Saliadarre and only had to chip the Spartans keeper find the back of the net, but was somehow denied by a miraculous save by the fearless Saliadarre who continued to lead his side by example.
The Spartans again looked certain to put the game to bed in the 60’ minute when yet another long-range Wilkinson shot was on target only to find the cold hard steel of the opposition’s crossbar.
The two goal buffer did eventuate in the 67’ minute when a Makrys’ corner caught the Wolves defence napping where an initial shot by Kondek was blocked only to land perfectly for an unmarked Nathan Millgate who slotted the ball past the Wolves keeper and into the back of the net.
With the Spartans seemingly cruising to victory courtesy of the Millgate goal, disaster struck moments later when a rush of blood in the 70’ minute saw the Spartans’ Zac Freeburn needlessly take out a Wolves defender deep in the opposition’s own half. Freeburn, who was already carrying a yellow card through an earlier incident, was given his second yellow and subsequently his marching orders to leave his side in the precarious position of having to play out the remaining 20’ minutes a player short.
However, it was the Spartans who lifted throughout the final quarter of the match playing some of their best football with a player down to not only create a number of realistic chances, but to ensure that they kept their semi-final chances well and truly alive by snaring all three points on offer courtesy of their 3-1 win.
“It has happened a number of times this year when we’ve gone down to ten men and our organisation actually improves,” admitted Spartans coach Ben De Haan when questioned by Football NSW as to why his side performed so well after having a player sent from the field.
“Having the ten men out there actually hurt the Wolves more than us I felt as we played well in tight spaces and broke really well. We found that extra space we didn’t seem to have when we had our full complement of players out there.
“In saying that though it was a tough first-half and fairly evenly matched, so we were happy to get those two penalties and especially after Ricky [Zucco] hit the crossbar a couple of times.”
The normally mild-mannered Wolves coach Richard Lloyd was scathing in his response when asked about his thoughts on the controversial first-half penalties that were awarded against his side.
“Two penalties have once again undone us and I’d like to watch a video replay of them to see just how bad they actually were,” claimed a frustrated Lloyd.
“We’ve had 14 penalties awarded against us this year and just three for. I’ll put my hand up and say that probably half of those have been our fault ….”
“We’re getting a bit sick and tired of walking away with no points after playing so well but as always I’m very proud of how the boys played and I thought that our captain Jacob Timpano was outstanding. I’ve moved him into a more central midfield role and since the move he has probably played his best four games of the season so that’s a real positive for us.”
Blacktown Spartans have a wash out game in hand against Rockdale City Suns, but face a tough run home to the semis with four of their remaining scheduled six games against sides who currently sit in the Top 5 on the IGA National Premier League NSW Mens 1 ladder. With a midseason hiatus for all teams scheduled for next weekend due to the final of the Waratah Cup, Ben De Haan’s men will need to bring their ‘A’ game for their next encounter on Sunday, July 14 as they travel to the heart of Canterbury to take on Sydney Olympic FC whose impressive home record is one of the best in the league having tasted defeat only once in the eight games contested at Belmore Sports Ground in 2013.
The Wolves return to Cringila’s John Crehan Park for their next outing as they host Manly United FC on Saturday evening July 13. Ironically the side from Sydney’s northern beaches boosts one of the best away records remaining undefeated in each of their last five consecutive road trips. The boys from the South Coast have also been impressive in their last two home games (both were transferred to Hooka Creek Park due to refurbishment of John Crehan Park) where they were unlucky to go down 1-0 against Blacktown City despite clearly playing the better football before bouncing back to trounce Marconi 4-1 last weekend with a Ricky Zucco-led goal barrage.
Blacktown Spartans 3 (Phillip Makrys 13’ (pen), 30’ (pen), Nathan Millgate 67’)
South Coast Wolves 1 (Ricky Zucco 52’)
Saturday June 29, 2013
Blacktown Football Park, Rooty Hill
Referee: Ryan Shepheard
Assistant Referees: Nathan Wotton and James Tesoriero
Fourth Official: Kelly Jones
Blacktown Spartans: 1.Carlos Saliadarre; 3.Nathan Millgate, 4.Luka Dukic, 5.Daniel Wilkinson, 6.Gregory Kondek, 7.Phillip Makrys (24.Reid Taylor 83’), 8.Brenton Rhodes (11.Tyson Rhodes 72’), 9.Jun Kato, 10.Bryan Soane (22.Pasquale Polistina 90’+2’), 16.Emmanuel Giannaros, 38.Zac Freeburn
Substitutes Not Used: 20.Luke Turnbull, 35.Jacob Harris
Yellow Cards: Zac Freeburn 32’, Luka Dukic 52’, Phillip Makrys 77’
Red Cards: Zac Freeburn 70’
South Coast Wolves: 1.Daniel Collison; 2.Jack Keating, 5.James Baldacchino (12.Joseph Lavalle 79’), 6.Chris Nathaniel, 8.Steve Hayes, 9.Peter Simonoski (18.John Martinoski 89’), 10.Ricky Zucco, 14.Mitchell Del Turco, 17.Zac Mackenzie, 21.Sam Matthews, 26.Jacob Timpano
Substitutes Not Used: 3.Sam Chapple, 4.Dusan Kolonja, 20.Thomas Hamilton
Yellow Cards: Sam Matthews 45’
Red Cards: Nil
-By Gary McDonald