They got out of jail and boy did they get out for free.
Sutherland Sharks were 2-0 to the good against Marconi Stallions, and were pegged back to 2-2.
At that score, Stallions looked the more likely to score a winner with Shu Sasaki and the substitute young promising star Bright Appiah running rampant.
Then in the final minutes, when Panny Nikas’ shot was blocked, and it looked as if he handled the ball.
The referee missed it however and when the ball came to Jordan Figon, he jinked past a few defenders and was brought down.
A penalty kick was given and Nikas dispatched it with aplomb, smashing his fourth goal of the season past James Chronopoulos, even though the Marconi keeper guessed the right way, giving Sutherland a last gasp 3-2 win.
It was that sort of day.
Sutherland led through Nikas and then added a second when Damien Travis scored an astonishing own goal.
But Marconi are made of sterner stuff than that and dragged themselves level thanks to Zak Elrich and Milorad Simonovic.
Sutherland’s eventual winner was mired in controversy, only heightened when Ali Haydar saw red in stoppage time for halting a Sutherland counter that would surely have resulted in their fourth.
Controversy aside it was a super match, end to end and played at a breakneck pace for the 90′ minutes plus added time.
Marconi was on top in the opening period and the dangerous Sasaki was in the thick of the early action. His first shot was saved by Denham; his second was blazed over when he needed more composure.
It took a few moments for the home side to settle into their possession based game and it was the leggy Ethan Galbraith who posed the first threat, beating two players down the right and crossing low into the six yard box, only for James Chronopoulos to get down low to cut it out.
18′ minutes were on the clock when Marco Sama blazed a left footed volley inches over the bar. The game was end to end and it was only a matter of time before the ball hit the back of the net.
There are fewer better at hitting it than Nikas, and so it proved on 21′ minutes when the prolific midfielder slotted past Chronopoulos after great work down the left by the lively Nathan Elasi.
He could and probably should have doubled Sutherland’s lead four minutes later when a cross from the left found his head, but the header had too much power and flew over the bar.
In the 29′ minute a slip from Travis allowed Nikas in, but with just Chronopoulos to beat he hit the post. The ball came out and was spread to the right to Galbraith and when he crossed to the back post, Travis made an awful hash of his clearance, smashing it past his own keeper and into the back of the net.
It was a deadly accurate finish but sadly for Travis, at the wrong end and Sutherland’s lead was two.
It wasn’t too be two for long, indeed it took just a minute for Marconi to pull one back. Denham won’t look back on it favourably, but Elrich’s shot contained enough power to beat the Sutherland keeper close to his body.
The goal gave Marconi a new lease of life. Sama shot over from a great position, before Umut Tokdogan shot wide from a free kick. Finally, Sasaki’s shot was well saved by Denham as a rollicking first half drew to a close.
Nick Olsen had a golden chance to put the game to bed in the 50′ minute but his shot was weak and straight at the keeper.
Sharks midfield general and skipper Nick Stavroulakis had a rare shot at goal but was denied by Chronopoulos and Sutherland’s profligacy came back to bite them when Milorad Simonovic equalised.
A terrible mix up between Nick Littler and Perry Moustakas gifted possession to Appiah, who squared to Simonovic to tap in.
Marconi pushed hard in the final 10′ minutes with Appiah and Sasaki going hard, but this game’s denouement was still to come.
Sutherland Sharks 3 (Panny Nikas 21′ 87′ [PEN], Damien Travis [OG] 30′)
Marconi Stallions 2 (Zak Elrich 31′, Milorad Simonovic 81′)
Saturday 5th April, 2014
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Referee: Michael Weiner
Assistant Referees: Thomas Lee and Mitchell Clark
Fourth Official: Karl Davies
Sutherland Sharks: 1.Nathan Denham; 5.Nicholas Littler, 6.Matthew Gordon, 7.Michael Stuart. 8.Lukas Stergiou, 9.Nathan Elasi, 14.Nick Stavroulakis (C), 15.Perry Moustakas, 16.Ethan Galbraith (12.Jordan Figon 66′), 19.Nick Olsen (10.Jamie McMaster 85′), 23.Panny Nikas
Substitutes Not Used: 22.Andrew Depta (GK), 2.Jacob Tratt, 3.Adamos Pierettis,10.Jamie McMaster
Yellow cards: Nathan Denham 89′, Lukas Stergiou 90′, Matthew Gordon 90+3′
Red cards: Nil
Marconi Stallions: 22.James Chronopoulos (C); 2.Mitchell Thompson, 3.Ali Haydar, 4.Umut Tokdogan, 6.Jared Lum, 7.Sean O’Connell, 9.Marco Sama (16.Bright Appiah 70′), 10.Milorad Simonovic, 19.Damien Travis, 20.Shu Sasaki, 21.Zak Elrich (18.Jake McGing 76′)
Substitutes Not Used: 40.Alex Frost (GK), 14.Sam Conway, 15.Tomislav Mijic
Yellow Cards: Shu Sasaki 54′
Red Cards: Ali Haydar 90+1′
3- Panny Nikas (Sutherland)
2- Shu Sasaki (Marconi)
1- Sean O’Connell (Marconi)
– By Matthew Lopez