AFTER an off-season or rebuilding for both sides, Sutherland Sharks hosted Blacktown Spartans in round one, and the Sharks were too good on the night.
The Spartans lost talisman gloveman and ‘keeper Carlos Saliadarre before kick-off with a niggling back complaint that shouldn’t keep him out for long, but it allowed Dominic Nascimben to make his PS4 NPL NSW Men’s 1 debut.
A flurry of early action didn’t create a clear cut opening as both attacked the flanks and probed down the middle looking for the telling pass however the first caution came in the seventh minute when Sean O’Connell tugged back Shu Sasaki as the Spartans broke downfield.
Jordan Crighton was sent through down the left flank in the 17th minute and attempted to curl his shot around Nathan Denham with the inside of the right foot. At the other end, Sutherland opened the scoring when Chris McStay centred to Seongjin Park, who netted his first goal for the Sharks on his NPL debut.
Futa Nakamura should have squared the ledger from a Greg Kondek free-kick but miss-hit the shot five minutes later. James McKenzie then went close for Sutherland as the home side pushed for a second.
A goalmouth scramble saw firstly Nakamura and then Kondek have efforts blocked on the line from a Shu Sasaki cross after good work down the right saw Sutherland opened up in the 37th minute. It was another opportunity squandered by the visitors.
Blacktown Spartans certainly came out of the sheds firing on all cylinders and really took the game to home side at the start of the second period, putting them on the back foot early with a high tempo pressing game. Denham needed, at one point, to punch away at full stretch to clear a promising move.
Sutherland weathered the storm and found the net again with a delightfully cushioned header by Jordan Figon from a Mitchell Farmer cross in the 51st minute. It showed the pace of the young defender and caught the visitors pushing too far upfield.
They responded the only way they know how and continued to press with their easy-on-the-eye brand of football, and they brought on Jake Douglas up front in place of Josh Da Silva.
Daniel Fogarty replaced Josh Tanner as De Hann rang the changes for the Spartans, closely followed by stand in skipper Kondek picking up a caution as the passion began to heighten on the field. Substitute Douglas was to join him in the book shortly thereafter also.
The Sharks were slowly pushed back deeper and utilised their pacey flankmen to hit on the break. Jacob Tratt replaced Mitch Farmer at right back after the youngster ran himself into the ground.
Blacktown did reduce the deficit when Sasaki fired past Denham in the 81st minute to set up a grandstand finish.
He went extremely close again after shaking off the attentions of the burly Sharks central defender Nick Littler, but he curled his shot narrowly over the bar in the 85th minute.
Figon was not to be kept out of the headlines, scoring his second with another header in the 88th minute that secured the points for Sutherland.
"We’ll take the win, it was a tough game. They came out early and were firing and put us under a lot pressure and other than the goal which was pretty poor, we defended pretty well,” Sutherland coach Steve O’Connor said.
“We had to do quite a bit of defending tonight but managed to score with three headers which is unusual and maybe we could have had a few more.
“The boys have been working hard and working well but we still have a lot of improving to do so we’re looking forward to that over the course of the season.
“Our second goal scored by Jordan (Figon) was from the early ball by Mitch (Farmer) and that ball was on a number of times and we were trying to work it and when we did get it in there we caused them some problems so that was good. If you don’t get in to the danger areas you don’t score, it’s that simple.
“It’s good to get the points tonight but worked hard for them and we can go in to next week with confidence.”
Spartans coach Ben De Haan stated to Football NSW.
“Definitely we got caught a little too high up the field for the second goal and we were guilty of being a little naive as well as all out back four were new, young boys with a couple of our 20’s in there.
“That’s not an excuse as I thought they did a good job at critical points and we probably created the more chances throughout the game but if you concede three you are not going to win many games.
“The continuity isn’t quite there and we had a few boys injured prior to the game in our experienced guys and not that our young boys didn’t step up tonight we were missing some vital players to our team.
“That is not to make any excuses for the result because Sutherland were just that little bit too clinical for us tonight but there were some very promising signs for us and our shape is getting better with everyone buying in to what we are trying to do here so we just need to steady the ship and make sure we are right for next week.”
Sutherland Sharks 3 (Park 17′, Figon 51′, 88′)
Blacktown Spartans 1 (Sasaki 81′)
Saturday March 14, 2015
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Referee: Adrian Arndt
Assistant Referees: Danny Horstead and Christian Layland-Greenaway
Fourth Official: Sebastien Brennan
Sutherland Sharks: Denham; McKenzie, Littler, Gordon, O’Connell, McStay (Jovovic 55’), Park (Roberts 84’), Stergiou, Figon, Farmer (Tratt 77’), Crevani
Substitutes Not Used: Mitwali, Depta
Yellow Cards: O’Connell 7′
Blacktown Spartans: Nascimben; Agathos, Quigley (Jacob 90’), Tomohiro, Kondek, Sasaki, Da Silva (Douglas 59’), Nakamura, Crighton, Tanner (Fogarty 68’), Tosi
Substitutes Not Used: Carluccio, Stojcevski
Yellow Cards: Kondek 68’, Douglas 72’
3 – Sean O’Connell (SS)
2 – Seongjin Park (SS)
1 – Shu Sasaki (BS)
– By Micky Brock, PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 Reporter, at Seymour Shaw Park