SYDNEY United 58 FC have something to celebrate for the first time in a month.
United 58 ended a run of four straight losses with a 2-1 win over Parramatta FC at Melita Stadium, to stay in the hunt for finals football, but not without a major scare.
Sydney United 58 looked comfortably in charge of the contest at half-time with a 2-0 lead courtesy of a brace from Panni Nikas.
Nikas converted a penalty after 18 minutes to put United 1-0 ahead and put away a header just six minutes later to double Sydney’s advantage.
He should have had his hat-trick after 65 minutes when his second penalty of the night was saved by Parramatta’s brilliant Luke Turnbull.
Shayne Ardle scored a brilliant diving header after 75 minutes to give the Eagles a glimmer of hope with 15 minutes remaining, but United held on to secure a crucial three-point haul.
The Eagles showed little signs of fatigue despite their midweek efforts against Manly United which finished in a 2-2 draw.
The home side enjoyed a lively start, but created little in the way of clear-cut chances.
At the other end, Sydney United 58 looked the more likely to score.
Turnbull had already been required to make two saves for the Eagles before the 12-minute mark and was asked to stop Nikas from 12-yards after Steven Wright committed a clumsy foul in the box.
Nikas coolly dispatched his spot-kick into the bottom-left corner.
He did not have to wait too long for a second.
Nikas was available at the far post to finish a fine team move when he made no mistake from close range to score his second.
The task ahead of Parramatta was sizeable as a result and frustration set in.
Roberto Speranza and Marco Sama were both in the referee’s book by half-time and a comeback was looking unlikely as the two teams made their way to the change rooms for the break.
A miracle looked a little more likely when the teams returned for the second half.
Parramatta asserted itself on the middle of the park through admirable efforts from Daniel Gullo who put himself about admirably for the Eagles.
Still, his side struggled to create much in the way of clear chances, with Sama – a two-goal hero in the midweek draw with Manly – cutting an increasingly frustrated figure up top.
It almost went from bad to worse when Parramatta’s Aram Tayebi Derazkala brought down Robert Mileski following a fine solo run from the United forward.
With a hat-trick in his sights, Nikas stepped up confidently, but hit his penalty too close to Turnbull who produced a strong save.
Turnbull was at it again making a superb save from the resulting corner.
Those two moments provided the Eagles the catalyst they needed to awaken in the final third and in the 75th minute, they got their reward.
Ardle arrived at the far post and threw himself bravely at substitute Blade Richard’s deep cross to score a superb diving header at the far post to reduce the deficit to one.
The flying Parramatta winger was rejuvenated as a result and tormented the United defence thereafter.
Two of his crosses could not find their intended targets, but when he had the chance to scoer the eqauliser himself after 83 minutes he could not capitalise.
A superb one-two with Sama, after a fine run from Richards, released Ardle one-on-one with United’s former A-League goalkeeper Justin Pasfield.
The big man in goal lived up to his reputation with a fine save to deny Ardle in dramatic fashion, making for a stunning conclusion to the game.
United 58 coach Mark Rudan was relieved to see his side finally come away with three points after a disastrous month.
“It was a well-disciplined performance. It goes without saying we’ve copped more than a few goals in the past few games,” Rudan said.
“But I think we were well disciplined and really at 2-0, we should have made it 3-0 and it could have been anything.
“We make it hard for ourselves as always … and it was a bit nervy at the end, but I’m happy to get away with the three points.”
Rudan said the nervousness that crept into his sides game was understandable given the last month.
“It’s been a while since we’ve put ourselves in a position where we’re 2-0 up in the second half,” Rudan said.
“You concede one and some old habits creep in and there’s a seed of doubt, but the leaders lead and I thought Theo (Kofinas) was strong at the back, so we’ll take the three points.”
Parramatta FC coach Franco Consentino said he was pleased with the second half performance.
“The first half was poor, we weren’t good and we struggled in a few areas, but I think we got on top in the second,” Consentino said.
“I thought we dominated it after half-time … and Luke (Turnbull) makes some crucial saves to keep us in the game and I think the boys fed off that.
“The boys are working hard. We’ve been pretty unlucky, but that’s football.
“It’s a new squad and it’s naïve in certain areas. We lack a bit of composure but that comes with games at this level, and if we can survive we’ll be better for it next year.
“But that’s the hardest job – surviving.”
Parramatta FC 1 (Ardle 75’)
Sydney United 58 FC (Nikas 18’, 24)
Saturday June 27, 2015
Melita Stadium, Sefton
Referee: James Lewis
Assistant Referees: Danny Horstead and Joon Park
Fourth Official: David Haslett
Parramatta City FC: Turnbull, Speranza, Wright, Symons, Tayebi Derazkala (Tsironis 69’), Martey, Gullo, Rezo (Richards 71’), Clowes, Ardle, Sama
Substitutes not used: Gersbach, Diaconco, Tsiornis, Richards, Chavez
Yellow cards: Wright 18’, Speranza 25’, Sama 26’, Ardle 54’
Sydney United 58 FC: Pasfield, Camera (Giannaros 55’), Sherlock, Stmatellis, Bosma (Cardozo 87’), Haydar, Nikas, Paric, Mileski, Kofinas, Taneski (Triantis 90’)
Substitutes not used: Cardozo, Giannaros, Triantis, Tomelic, Ephraim
-By Matthew Galea, National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 Reporter, at Melita Stadium