MANLY United FC finished off their season in convincing fashion following a 3-1 win over Rockdale at Cromer Park.
Heavy rain on Saturday night and Sunday morning saw the game switched from Illinden Sports Centre to the northern beaches and the ‘home’ side made the most of the familiar conditions.
A long ball from Josh Ward on 12′ minutes fell into the path of Scott Balderson.
The attacking ace, playing his final game for the club, was fouled in the area and Brendan Cholakian made no mistake from 12 yards moments later.
Branko Culina’s Suns were clearly rattled, as their usual crisp passing game was nowhere to be seen.
Influential playmaker Paul Reid resembled a ghost, such was his lack of involvement.
After close to half an hour the visitors finally woke from the slumber, with Nicola Taneski spraying an effort over the crossbar with just Dylan Mitchell to beat.
On 35′ minutes Rockdale’s Idriss El Haflane showed some silky skills but lacked composure at the vital moment, shooting wide of the target.
With 43′ minutes played Sean Symons lashed an effort towards goal, but it ended up inches past the far post.
Manly’s Chris Payne then tested David Bradasevic leading into the break, but the gloveman was up to the task, parrying the shot out for a corner.
United doubled their lead on 52′ minutes – once again from the penalty spot.
Payne was clipped in the area, and although the striker made the most of the challenge, it was the right call.
The striker dusted himself off and made no mistake to give Manly a two goal buffer.
3′ minutes later United were in dreamland after they were awarded a third spot-kick by referee James Lewis.
This time Daniel Saric was fouled, and the Kiwi echoed the movements of Cholakian and Payne, slotting Manly’s third penalty on 55′ minutes.
Taneski pegged back the margin to 3-1 after 60′ minutes, but you felt it was merely consolation as Paul Dee’s men were growing in stature as the second half evolved.
Culina threw Nick Petrillo and Andrija Petkovic into the fray in 63′ minutes in the hope of raising Rockdale’s tempo, but it proved fruitless.
Taneski should have finished with a brace after he was clear on goal after 78′ minutes but Mitchell once again made a telling save.
Payne and Saric both had late efforts to score Manly’s fourth, but their efforts flashed wide of the target.
Culina conceded his team clearly had their minds on semi-final football next week.
"It was an interesting game to say the least, not often do you see three penalties for one team and not one caution,” he said.
"I felt we controlled proceedings, Manly only caused us problems on the counter.
"The late venue change was also significant, instead of being at home we had to travel an hour and play at their place.
"I don’t see any point in blaming the referee for what happened out there, all I want to see is consistency."
His opposite Paul Dee was understandably chuffed at what his team produced.
"Given we didn’t have much to play for, the effort was magnificent,” he said.
"We stressed pre-game it was all about showing pride in the jersey and the club.
"Our aim long term is to make Cromer Park a fortress where opposition teams hate playing at.
"Some good signs were there, I guess we will re-assess where we are at in a few weeks and then start planning for 2015."
Rockdale City Suns 1 (Nikola Taneski 60′)
Manly United 3 (Brendan Cholakian 12′, Chris Payne 52′, Daniel Saric 55′)
Sunday August 17, 2014
Cromer Park, Cromer
Referee: James Lewis
Assistant referees: Nick Backo and Joon Park
Fourth official: Gareth Williams
Rockdale City Suns: 22.David Bradasevic, 12.Idriss El Haflane, (21.Hristijan Tanoski 70′) 3.Steven Hesketh, 18.Marko Jesic, 8.Paul Kohler, (25.Nick Petrillo 63′) 6.Takuya Murayama, 23.Askin Oygur, 5.Paul Reid, (2.Andrija Petkovic 63′) 14.Patrick Savor, 4.Sean Symons, 11.Nikola Taneski
Substitutes not used: None
Yellow cards: NIL
Red cards: NIL
Manly United: 1.Dylan Mitchell, 10.Brendan Cholakian, 9.Chris Payne, 17.Nathan Sim, 6.Josh Ward, (22.Jack Green 77′) 31.Dylan Whitlock, (8.Danny Grant 46′) 19.Daniel Saric, 4.Graeme Forbes, 15.Rhys Williams, 7.Scott Balderson, (11.Roberto Speranza 57′) 3.Leigh Egger
Substitutes not used: 20.Tonu Liiband
Yellow cards: NIL
Red cards: NIL