Manly United FC has extended its consecutive unbeaten away record to six games after grinding out a hard-fought 2-1 win over South Coast Wolves at Hooka Creek Park in Berkeley Vale.
With three goals scored in the opening 16’ minutes of play, it appeared that a rugby score might be on the offering as both teams played expansively throughout the opening stanza.
The Wolves, through livewire forward John Martinoski, opened the scoring for the home side when he was on the receiving end of some excellent lead up work by Wolves captain Jacob Timpano. The former Sydney FC and North Queensland Fury enforcer has been back to the best form that, at its height, netted him an A-League Championship.
In recent times coach Richard Lloyd has promoted Timpano to the holding midfielder role, and his brilliant through-ball to slice the Manly defence to an awaiting Martinoski was precision perfect. Martinoski still had work to do, but made no mistake in slotting it past Manly goalkeeper Dylan Mitchell to put the home side in front after just 4’ minutes of play.
Perhaps a little daunted after taking the lead so early in the game, the Wolves appeared to clock off just 2’ minutes later when a seemingly innocuous Manly free-kick by Matt Sim found the head of Scott Balderson to level the scores at one-a-piece. Sim’s free-kick was certainly nicely weighted, but Balderson appeared to have all the time in the world as he leapt high to flick the ball through nicely off the top of his head and into the back of the net to ensure that the visitors provided a quick reply to the Wolves early goal.
If the Wolves were unsettled after the 6’ minute equaliser then they must have been completely shell-shocked in the 15’ minute when their young defender Zac Mackenzie blatantly handled the ball in his own area to give the referee no choice but to point at the spot. Mackenzie, who along with fellow teammates Mitchell Del Turco and Peter Simonoski, has been invited to trial with the A-League’s Sydney FC, was devastated to have given away the penalty – his third in the past two consecutive matches.
The ever-reliable Matt Sim converted the penalty as he pushed the powerfully struck shot past Wolves shot-stopper Daniel Collison that saw the home side relinquish a one-goal lead into a one-goal deficit in the space of just 10’ minutes.
Manly’s resurgence showed resilient characteristics throughout the whole side as they controlled the majority of proceedings for the remainder of the first-half that could have seen the visitors extend their lead even further heading into the sheds had they converted a number of realistic opportunities.
Balderson could have made it a double in the 29’ minute when a shot – deflected by Wolves defender James Baldacchino’s left boot – had keeper Collison wrong-footed only for the ball to narrowly drift past the left post.
Balderson was in thick of the action and causing the Wolves left-hand defensive side a multitude of problems which was compounded even further when he pick-pocketed a careless Baldacchino mistake in the 37’ minute to race away to the edge of the box before a wayward shot undid all his good lead up work.
The 38’ minute was perhaps Manly’s best opportunity to put a two goal buffer between them and the home side. Sim, joining Balderson in wreaking havoc down the Wolves’ left side, danced around the defence with ease to show a clean pair of heels as he dribbled the ball with speed and accuracy into the box and fired off a cracker of a shot only to see it rebound with vigor off the crossbar to deny his side a third goal.
Whatever coach Lloyd said to his troops during the break had an immediate impact as the South Coast side was a completely different outfit to the one who had trudged off the field only minutes earlier.
The Wolves began to string passes together and showed class as they worked it out nicely from the backs, and it wasn’t long before a realistic chance materialised in the 50’ minute when the speedy Del Turco crossed a ball dangerously into the middle from the right. Del Turco’s cross was well weighted and had the defence in a bother in what could have proved costly after Manly defender Graeme Forbes’s errant attempt to clear the ball sailed ever-so-slightly over his own crossbar.
The Wolves continually peppered the opposition with set plays from a barrage of free-kicks throughout the second-half and it was their hard-working blonde-haired midfielder Steve Hayes who, along with Sam Matthews, was proving to be the main danger for the visiting side.
Hayes’ free-kicks from within range of the opposing penalty box caused mayhem time and time again, and it was in the 58’ minute that really tested the Manly goalkeeper. A well weighted ball just above the heads of the Manly defenders caught a deflection that looked certain to find the back of the net, as the Manly custodian appeared to have been wrong-footed. Amazingly though, Mitchell recovered well and managed to react in time down low to his left to prevent the leveler.
Perhaps Manly’s best opportunity of the second-half came in the 72’ minute after a piece of individual brilliance from the enigmatic Brendan Cholakian, who stepped, jinked and turned the opposing defence inside out to deliver a rocket-like shot that was only denied by the equally brilliant work by Collison who punched the ball over the bar.
Yet another set play free-kick in the 78’ minute should have provided the much-needed equaliser for the home side when a nicely delivered free-kick from the right somehow managed to elude the head of Hayes who only needed the slightest touch to divert the ball into the back of the net.
With every missed opportunity, valuable time was evaporating from the referee’s time clock, and when inspirational Wolves captain Timpano was given his controversial marching orders following a second yellow infringement for a charge into the back of a Manly player in the 87’ minute, it appeared that the visitors would hang on for the win.
The final minute of regulation time provided the Wolves with a potential swansong when substitute Simonoski cleverly flicked a ball onto Del Turco who raced away deep into the goal mouth. Del Turco’s slightest of hesitations to shoot proved costly as the Manly defenders nullified his shot and any chance for the Wolves to salvage a competition point.
“We had dropped off over the last couple of weeks, but that win tonight was just what we needed,” claimed a jubilant Manly United FC coach Craig Midgley shortly after his side’s win.
“We had a heartfelt chat after training last Thursday and the lads’ response that they showed out there tonight was superb.
“In the warm up we lost one of our key players [Josh Ward] and we’ve got another four players out with hamstring injuries, so to go down after 4’ minutes I thought that it might just be one of those nights.
“I felt that we responded well after we went down a goal so early on … they [Wolves] have some very experience quality players in their side and if they had that side all season long I’m sure that they would be a lot further up on the competition ladder.
“We have a very small squad and I’ve asked the boys to stick together, get safe and hopefully we’ll finish the season off on a high.”
Richard Lloyd, obviously disappointed with the loss, was as always, philosophical after his side’s loss.
“Obviously Manly United came down here with a game plan and stuck to their defensive structure when we had the ball,” explained Lloyd.
“We found their defensive structure hard to break down, we created our chances, but once again our finishing continues to let us down and we need to put the ball into the back of the net when the opportunity presents.
“I think that a couple of our players took the foot off the pedal when we went up that early goal, sure it was good to score but I guess ultimately it went against us in the end.”
The Wolves, having only just announced this week that all of their remaining home games will be played out of Hooka Creek Park, travel up the F6 next Sunday afternoon to take on Rockdale City Suns at Ilinden Sports Centre. Once considered an almost unassailable task for visiting teams to walk out of the West Botany Street venue with any competition points, the Suns, despite appearing semi-finals bound, are just two wins from seven attempts at their home ground in Season 2013.
Manly United’s home ground track record this year is one of the worst in the IGA National Premier League NSW Mens 1 competition and boasts just a handful of wins from eight outings. Craig Midgley’s men will be looking to improve on those stats when they host Sydney Olympic FC at Cromer Park next Sunday afternoon. In the corresponding clash at Belmore Sports Ground back in April, Olympic gave Manly a footballing lesson with a 5-1 trouncing that sparked the northern beaches club into action where they have remained unbeaten ‘on the road’ ever since.
South Coast Wolves 1 (John Martinoski 4’)
Manly United FC 2 (Scott Balderson 6’, Matt Sim 16’ (pen) )
Saturday July 13th, 2013
Hooka Creek Park, Berkeley Vale
Referee: Stephen Lucas
Assistant Referees: Nathan Wotton and Lachlan Keevers
Fourth Official: Samuel Grasso
South Coast Wolves: 1.Daniel Collison; 2.Jack Keating, 5.James Baldacchino, 6.Chris Nathaniel, 8.Steve Hayes, 10.Ricky Zucco (12.Joseph Lavalle 76’), 11.John Martinoski (9.Peter Simonoski 50’), 14.Mitchell Del Turco, 17.Zac Mackenzie, 21.Sam Matthews, 26.Jacob Timpano
Substitutes Not Used: 3.Dusan Kolonja, 4. Sam Chapple, 20.David Hamilton
Yellow Cards: Jacob Timpano 22’, Ricky Zucco 45’+1’, Steve Hayes 66’
Red Cards: Jacob Timpano 87’
Manly United FC: 1.Dylan Mitchell; 2.Leigh Egger, 4.Graeme Forbes, 5.Josh Lawson, 6.Danny Grant, 7.Scott Balderson (25.Dominic Ferguson 66’), 10.Colin Iley (13.Tinashe Mugabe 80’), 11.Matt Sim (30.Jack Green 60’), 12.Brendan Cholakian, 14.David Cain, 15.Jimmy Oates
Substitutes Not Used: 20.Tonu Liiband, 29.Maxwell Hastings
Yellow Cards: Jack Green 60’, Jimmy Oates 75’
Red Cards: Nil
-By Gary McDonald