The equation was simple for Blacktown City FC on Sunday afternoon at Lily Homes Stadium – win and they would play semi-final football.
At full-time though, they were left pondering what may have been in 2013 after a dogged Manly United FC held on for a 0-0 draw.
The home side started the better of the two squads, with Matthew Mayora stinging the palms of Dylan Mitchell with an effort from the edge of the area on 5′ minutes.
Moments later, Manly’s Matt Sim should have done better from 18-yards. Capitalising on a mistake from a hesitant Blacktown City defence, he jinked to unleash an shot from his trusty left foot, only to see his effort skew wide of the target.
Minutes later Travis Major did United’s Graeme Forbes for pace, but hurried his shot as it trickled well beyond the far post.
Major should have then scored in the 10′ minute, but Mitchell narrowed the angle and the chance went begging.
Kearyn Baccus was the next player to go close for Blacktown City, but Mitchell once again saved the day.
The talented shot stopper then had the United bench measuring their heart rates after spilling a regulation ball from a corner. Zac Cairncross reacted first, but his shot looped over the crossbar.
The contest then dimmed somewhat as referee Christopher Young showed everyone who was in charge with a couple of cautions for rash challenges.
After the break Blacktown City number 10 Harris Gaitatzis began to command proceedings in the middle of the park and in the 55′ minute he fired in a ball which bypassed all his teammates in the area.
Both coaches then cleared their benches in a bid to assume control and on 75′ minutes the always energetic Ray Miller was unlucky not to find the back of the net.
Sean Rooney released him, but after skipping past a few challenges, the ball wouldn’t sit for Miller as he blazed wide.
The game’s biggest chance was in the 83′ minute. Major belted a dangerous ball across the face of the goal mouth and it fell to Rooney.
The anxious crowd held their breath, but were left frustrated when the one-time Newcastle Jet fired well over the woodwork.
Ryuji Miyazawa could have been the hero in the 89′ minute, but the pint-sized midfielder directed his glancing header just wide.
It proved to be pivotal with Marconi leapfrogging Blacktown City into the top five after a late goal from Shane Webb sealed a 1-0 win over Bonnyrigg.
Blacktown City coach Mark Crittenden conceded not being clinical in the final third was his team’s downfall.
”We knew the situation before kick-off, it was in our hands,” he said.
"I think a few of the other top teams will be relieved we are out of contention, we played some very good football at times this year.
”The lads are shattered, we will just have to move on.”
His opposite Craig Midgley was glowing when reflecting on the collective effort of Manly United:
”As has been the case all year, we were very skinny in terms of depth,” he said.
”Blacktown City are one of the best sides in the league, to get a point on their home patch when they had so much to play for is magnificent.
“I thought young Hamish Galbraith was outstanding, we drafted him in from the 18’s and he didn’t look out of place.
“If we can build our squad next year and have 17 or 18 players to choose from each week we will be in good shape."
Blacktown City FC 0
Manly United FC 0
Sunday 18th of August, 2013
Lily Homes Stadium, Sunday August 18
Referee: Christopher Young
Assistant Referees: Karl Davies and Gareth Williams
Fourth Official: Kearney Robinson
Blacktown City FC: 1.Brody Crane; 12.Kearyn Baccus, (8.Ray Miller 36′) 19.Zac Cairncross, 3.Andrea Del Brocco, 10.Harris Gaitatzis, 5.Patrick Gatt, 6.Matthew Lewis, 7.Travis Major, 15.Matthew Mayora, (16.Luke Clifford 60′) 9.Ryuji Miyazawa, 11.Sean Rooney
Substitutes Not Used: 18.Dolor Edosomwan, 26.Shayne D’Cunha 13.Blake Tuxford
Yellow Cards: Zac Cairncross 35′, Matthew Lewis 38′, Ray Miller 50′, Andrea Del Brocco 80′, Patrick Gatt 85′
Red Cards: Nil
Manly United FC: 1.Dylan Mitchell; 7.Scott Balderson, (18.Tinashe Mugabe 65′) 12.Brendan Cholakian, 4.Graeme Forbes, 6.Danny Grant, (26.Nathan Sim 56′) 10.Colin Iley, 15.Jimmy Oates, 11.Matt Sim, 16.Josh Ward, 14.David Cain, 2.Hamish Galbraith
Substitutes Not Used: 20.Tonu Liiband, 32.Jack Park
Yellow Cards: Colin Iley 22′, Hamish Galbraith 57′, Matt Sim 80′
Red Cards: Nil
-By Andrew Prentice