Ten-man Blacktown Spartans overcame a tremendous test of character to overturn a deficit and defeat Bonnyrigg White Eagles 2-1 in a highly entertaining night of football at Blacktown Football Park.
Bonnyrigg appeared to hold complete control at the interval having opened the scoring through an early Robbie Younis penalty before Spartans’ Greg Kondek was dismissed on the half hour mark for a second bookable offence.
Despite their numerical disadvantage the hosts banded together to not only keep Bonnyrigg at bay but also forge an equaliser through Brenton Rhodes just after the hour mark.
Bonnyrigg’s lethargic second-half performance then turned from bad to worse with a quarter hour remaining when Steven Hesketh saw two yellows in the space of a few minutes to restore parity on the park.
With the stage set for a dramatic finish the match duly delivered when Luka Dukic netted the winner deep in injury time before Carlos Saliadarre produced a brilliant reflex save to deny opposing goalkeeper Matthew Nash a last ditch equaliser from the final corner of the match.
The win was no less than the Spartans deserved after lifting their game to defy the odds from the moment Kondek trudged off while Bonnyrigg’s loss leaves the door open for Sutherland Sharks to move to the summit with a win tomorrow afternoon.
Spartans began the match brightly as they looked to test the league leaders in the opening minutes.
A raking long ball from Bryan Soane was met by Andre Carle’s well timed run; the winger controlled the ball well but couldn’t tame his finish as he blazed the first chance of the match narrowly over the crossbar.
The visitors soon settled into their usual stride, controlling both the ball and the tempo as they looked to create early chances of their own.
They were quickly rewarded when Nathan Millgate tangled with Younis in the box, giving referee Ryan Shepheard not choice but to point to the spot.
Younis picked himself up, dusted himself off, and sent Saliadarre the wrong way as he confidently buried his penalty to hand his side the early lead.
Bonnyrigg’s next chance came from the dead ball after Luke Austin conceded a free-kick on the right flank along with a booking for his trouble.
Chris Tadrosse stood over the ball, initially dummying to disrupt the structure of Spartans’ offside trap before swerving in a dangerous cross that was diverted past the shot-stopper by the head of Younis only for the finish to be correctly ruled out by the offside flag.
Fortunately for the hosts Tadrosse’s dummy had also thrown out Younis’ timing as the striker had moved too early to stray into an offside position.
Bonnyrigg continued to surge forward and came close to doubling their advantage when Adrian Ucchino picked out Tynan Diaz with a brilliant through ball; however the wing back couldn’t repeat his goal scoring feats of last weekend as he dragged his finish wide.
Spartans did well to maintain their composure at the back as they weathered intense pressure from their opposition yet going forward they appeared nervous as they repeatedly turned over possession in Bonnyrigg’s half.
The hosts soon began to settle down and move the ball around with confidence only for their chances to take a massive blow just after the half hour mark when Kondek was dismissed for his second booking of the afternoon.
The red card left Spartans with it all to do as they trailed both on the scoreboard and in personnel, yet to their credit they immediately compacted well, defended bravely, and attacked with greater composure as they kept Bonnyrigg at bay for the remainder of the half.
Both coaches had work to do in the interval as Brian Brown looked to keep his eleven players focussed for the second-half while Ben De Haan looked to inspire his side to overturn the deficit with ten men.
The half-time words of the latter appeared to have worked wonders as Spartans came within inches of equalising soon after the restart.
Soane was allowed time and space outside the Bonnyrigg box and almost took full advantage as he unleashed a powerful 25-yard drive that beat Matthew Nash only to strike the frame of the goal and bounce clear.
Nash came to the rescue minutes later to deny Carle as the winger slipped in behind the Bonnyrigg defence to run onto a brilliant long ball; the visiting custodian raced off his line, putting his body on the line to beat Carle to the ball before clearing it to safety.
The ambition of the ten men soon paid off as Spartans carved out a well-deserved equaliser as they found the back of the net from the set piece shortly after the hour mark.
Austin’s measured corner curled majestically onto the head of Brenton Rhodes who crashed the ball against the underside of the crossbar and over the line to pull his side back on level terms and draw wild celebrations from the home crowd.
The hosts then went close to going ahead as they threatened from the dead ball once again.
Daniel Wilkinson delivered a brilliant crossed free-kick into the box that was met by Millgate who leapt to sail over his marker and head the ball to Austin; the anchor man couldn’t hit the target from a narrow angle, burying the ball into the side netting with his finish.
Spartans’ organised backline looked to be frustrating Bonnyrigg who worked in vain to break them down and only threatened from range as Bo Hyun Chun fired over from 30-yards.
The visitors did manage to get in behind Spartans when Nash’s quick thinking saw the goalkeeper put Younis through on goal with a brilliant long ball however Wilkinson recovered quickly to deny Younis with a brilliant last-ditch sliding challenge in the box.
Just as Bonnyrigg began to regain their momentum they soon found themselves also down to ten men with just over a quarter hour remaining as Hesketh received his second booking in quick succession with a poorly timed last-man challenge on Soane.
Nash parried away Austin’s ensuing free-kick yet the warning signs were there as the pressure continued to mount on the visitors.
Bonnyrigg had a golden chance to move back in front when Diaz picked out Alex Canak with a smart corner to the near post; the substitute failed to capitalise as he headed over from the edge of the 6-yard box.
Soane picked up an injury in his attempt to challenge Canak for the header, causing a lengthy stoppage in play that saw injury time extended and the midfielder eventually replaced by Jun Kato.
There was drama a plenty to be had deep in injury time when Nash picked up a late back-pass to hand Spartans an indirect free-kick.
With numbers in the box Bonnyrigg deflected Wilkinson’s initial effort only for the big man to control the rebound and centre the ball which ricocheted around the box before falling to Dukic who belted the ball into the back of the net to give his side a 96’ minute lead and create pandemonium in the stands.
Despite the celebrations, the great escape was not yet complete as Bonnyrigg forced one final corner that saw Nash join the attack as the visitors desperately hunted for an equaliser.
The Bonnyrigg number 1 almost pulled off the seemingly impossible as he volleyed Tadrosse’s corner goalward however Saliadarre produced a brilliant reflex save to parry the ball to safety and seal a famous with for his side.
Blacktown Spartans coach Ben was happy with the final result after feeling his side were up against it for most of the match:
“The way it ended I was very happy,” said DeHann.
“The rest of the game – I don’t even know what to say about it.
“It was hard work; we felt everyone was against us.
“The boys have shut up, they did the job, and that’s what it’s about.”
DeHaan also praised his captain and keeper Carlos Saliadarre for his final save that added the icing to the cake of their incredibly last-gasp victory:
“It was an unbelievable save,” remarked.
“It probably matched the performance of our second-half.
“It was some save to deny their goalkeeper of all people; he’s hit it well and it was a great save from point blank.
“It’s what we needed as we needed the three points badly after a pretty stiff month of a couple of losses and a couple of draws.
“It’s now game by game with a couple of suspensions now and with injuries we’re getting a little bit thin so we’ll take it one game at a time, regroup, and start setting our goals for next week.”
Bonnyrigg White Eagles coach Brian Brown was highly disappointed with his side’s sluggish second-half performance after his side looked to be in complete control at the break:
“It certainly wasn’t the end I anticipated at half-time,” said Brown.
“I thought we were very good in the first-half, pretty dominant, and it was very stop-start with a lot of fouls.
“At half-time I was pretty confident that we’d go on and win the game.
“Credit to them; they wanted it more than us in the second-half and totally dominated us.
“Our boys were a disgrace; we just went down two or three gears and didn’t work hard enough.
“It’s as simple as that, there’s nothing complicated about it.
“Last week wasn’t our greatest performance, we played really well on Tuesday night against Rockdale, and I think we did it certainly in the first-half.
“At this game if we don’t work hard and we don’t support each other we’ll get nothing.
“I just told the boys that if they think they’re going to go out every game and win it’s just not going to help.
“If we work hard we’re a big chance.”
Brown will hope his side can bounce back next weekend as Bonnyrigg look to keep their title ambitions on track:
“Hopefully, hopefully,” said Brown.
“We’ll dust ourselves down now and see what happens when we see who is available for next week.”
Blacktown Spartans 2 (Brenton Rhodes 61’, Luka Dukic 90’+6’)
Bonnyrigg White Eagles 1 (Robbie Younis 9’ (pen) )
Saturday June 8th, 2013
Blacktown Football Park, Rooty Hill
Referee: Ryan Shepheard
Assistant Referees: Thomas Lee and Sarah Ho
Fourth Official: Katie Louise Patterson
Blacktown Spartans: 1.Carlos Saliadarre; 2.Luke Austin, 3.Nathan Millgate, 4.Luka Dukic, 5.Daniel Wilkinson, 6.Greg Kondek, 8.Brenton Rhodes, 10.Bryan Soane (9.Jun Kato 90’), 14.Luke Jenner, 15.Andre Carle (24.Reid Taylor 81’), 38.Zac Freeburn
Substitutes Not Used: 11.Tyson Rhodes, 20.Luke Turnbull, 30.Keiran Dalton
Yellow Cards: Luke Austin 10’, Greg Kondek 23’, Nathan Millgate 52’, Luka Dukic 63’, Daniel Wilkinson 74’, Brenton Rhodes 85’
Red Cards: Greg Kondek 31’
Bonnyrigg White Eagles: 1.Matthew Nash; 2.Alex Mansueto, 4.Vuko Tomasevic, 5.Chris Tadrosse, 7.Tynan Diaz, 9.Robert Younis, 10.Mitchell Long, 15.Steven Hesketh, 18.Adrian Ucchino, 19.Aaron Peterson (8.Aleksander Canak 46’), 21.Bo Hyun Chun
Substitutes Not Used: 14.Jordan Crighton, 16.Howard Fondyke, 23.Massa Tanaka, 33.Nikodin Matic
Yellow Cards: Bo Hyun Chun 62’, Steven Hesketh 72’
Red Cards: Steven Hesketh 75’
-By Michael Shoolman