A WARM and slightly misty evening at Seymour Shaw Park saw Premiership contenders Bonnyrigg White Eagles do battle against Sutherland Sharks, in a match that ended with the visitors running out 3-1 winners.
It was a result that will have a huge bearing on both the Premiership and the make-up of the top five.
Nick Olsen returned to the starting line-up for the Sharks after returning from trials overseas in Denmark plus Matthew Gordon, fresh off the plane from the USA. White Eagles ‘keeper Matthew Nash withdrew from the fray prior to the kick-off with a minor strain. Ben Spruce, on his old stomping ground, also returned for the visitors starting side in defence after recovering from the unfortunate shattered cheek bone suffered in round 4 of the Waratah Cup at Rockdale.
Robbie Younis could have got on the score sheet as early as the fifth minute when he scuffed an effort straight at Nathan Denham from the edge of the box.
Tristan Prendergast, deputising for Nash between the sticks, needed to be quick on his line to deflect a curling shot away for a corner in the 10’ minute as Sutherland began to find their feet.
Damir Prodanovic slid Nathan Elasi through only to hear the whistle for offside, a tight decision that had the home support howling in derision and protest.
Indeed, Prodanovic, Elasi and Gordon were forming a neat triangle through the left side of the pitch and linked well with Olsen, while Panni Nikas was floating around the midfield and popping up everywhere.
Dylan Fox headed over under pressure from a Ken Chun free-kick from the White Eagles’ left wing that caused some panic in the Sharks defence in the 24’ minute.
Chances were far and few between, as to be expected with two classy outfits clashing in a match with so much bearing on the outcome.
Jacob Tratt was unlucky not to open the scoring for Sutherland on the half-hour when twice attempting to head home, Prendergast thrice having to tip up before getting the ball over the bar in a crowded box. Adrian Ucchino attempted a volley in reply that skewed wide at the other end.
Aaron Peterson, Alex Canak and Terry McFlynn worked hard for the visitors to create and stem attacks whilst Spruce looked calm under pressure at the back, each standing up to the task in front of them.
The only thing lacking was goalmouth action.
Chun set up Peterson with five to go in the half but the striker attempted to curl into the far corner but without enough curl.
Younis should have buried a header close to stoppage time but held his head in his hands as the ball slipped past the post after good work down the Bonnyrigg left.
The second period started brightly for Sutherland with a Nikas free-kick that took a wicked bounce off the pitch just in front of Prendergast who had to adjust smartly to gather.
Another Nikas free-kick in the 53’ minute wasn’t quite so worrying for Bonnyrigg but it increasingly looked as though a moment of magic would be needed to turn the game and so it proved less than 60 seconds later when Younis found time and space on the edge of the area to control the ball and slide it past Denham to give the White Eagles the lead.
Sutherland needed to rally and respond quickly to salvage something from a topsy-turvey season.
Like a sucker punch to a boxer the Sharks were caught cold again when Younis was found with a defence splitting pass to ghost in and net another to give Bonnyrigg a two-goal buffer in the game, his sixteenth goal of the season.
Sharks coach Robbie Stanton replaced Prodanovic with Jordan Figon up front, which was followed by his counterpart Brian Brown introducing Tynan Diaz for Chun.
Figon had Prendergast down sharply at the near post before Fox nipped in to head clear in front of the Sharks substitute within the space of 30-seconds as the match sprang into life.
Elasi, breaking through down the left, thought the margin was reduced when he unleashed an unstoppable shot that cannoned off the crossbar and back into play in the 66’ minute.
The points were wrapped up when substitute Howard Fondyke hammered home in the 88’ minute to give the White Eagles a chance of taking the Premiership crown depending on other results.
Figon netted a consolation for the Sharks when Prendergast, playing only his second first grade game, blotted his copy book when by spilling the ball for Figon to hare in and tap home.
Sharks coach Robbie Stanton commented at the whistle to Football NSW.
“Once again we made some schoolboy errors because we have a young back-line at the moment and it just showed a little bit tonight. You cannot put an old head on young shoulders and we got caught.
“The first goal was an error, a mistake when we were over extended in attack and didn’t track back quickly enough and didn’t pick up the striker and he got in behind to score.
“We simply have to learn some hard lessons and quickly and the second goal we were again over committing and were caught again.”
Brian Brown was pleased but subdued after the game and added.
“I felt the first-half was really open, perhaps too open from our view point. We changed our shape at the break and that was what changed the game for us.
“Obviously that is why we have Robbie Younis, he scored two outstanding goals for us tonight.
“I thought we looked very compact after the break and it was going to take something very special from Sutherland to break us down.
“Again, I felt our first-half performance was terrible which is why we changed at the break because too much ball was being turned over by both sides so we discussed keeping more of the possession and it paid off at the end for us.
“We are now on 44 points and if we win our final game against Sydney Olympic next week, which will be no easy task, it will give us 47 points and if you don’t win the Premiership with that it has taken a very special team effort to keep you out so we’ll take these points tonight and focus on our final game and see what happens.”
Sutherland Sharks 1 (Jordan Figon 90+3′)
Bonnyrigg White Eagles 3 (Robbie Younis 54’ 58’, Howard Fondyke 88′)
Saturday 9th August, 2014
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Referee: Strebre Delovski
Assistant Referees: Lance Greenshields and Andrej Giev
Fourth Official: Lachlan Keevers
Sutherland Sharks: 1.Nathan Denham, 2.Jacob Tratt, 4.James Mckenzie, 6.Matthew Gordon (28.Jacob Bandur 90′), 9.Nathan Elasi, 14.Nick Stavroulakis (C), 17.Jordan Roberts (37.Daniel Loe 81′), 19.Nick Olsen, 23.Panni Nikas, 24.Damir Prodanovic (12.Jordan Figon 59′), 29.Mitchell Farmer
Substitutes not used: 8.Nicolas Stergiou, 22.Andrew Depta (g/k)
Yellow Cards: Matthew Gordon 68′
Red Cards: Nil
Bonnyrigg White Eagles: 20.Tristian Prendergast (g/k), 2.Alexander Mansueto, 5.Chris Tadrosse (C), 8.Alexander Canak, 9.Robbie Younis (16.Howard Fondyke 81′), 11.Ben Spruce, 12.Dylan Fox, 18.Adrian Ucchino, 19.Aaron Peterson (14.Jordan Crighton 72′), 21.Bo Hyun (Ken) Chun (10.Tynan Diaz 62′), 35.Terry McFlynn
Substitutes not used: 22.Liam Gobbo (g/k), 34.Tarik Ercan
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
-By Micky Brock, National Premier Leagues NSW Mens 1 Reporter, at Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda