It might have been late, but it was certainly great for Manly United as it dented Sutherland Sharks ever fading hopes of finals football.
Christopher Payne’s 73rd minute strike was the difference between the two mid-table sides battling for a late shot at finals.
It was Sutherland that probably should have hit the lead on the quarter-hour mark when Alex Jovovic couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet but managed to play it to Steve Hayes who twisted and turned inside the box.
Unable to find room for the shot he slipped it to the right catching Jacob Tratt flatfooted resulting in a tame goal-kick from a promising move.
Neither keeper was tested however Jordan Figon, leading the line and Perry Moustakas, sitting in front of the Sharks’ back four, were working hard to make things happen for the home side in a tense opening 10-minute spell.
Matt Gordon was his usual busy self at left back and down the flank.
Manly, to its credit, have stiffened their resolve under Paul Dee and Bobby Catlin and worked the triangles well in playing the ball on the ground and channeling most things through skipper Brendan Cholakian with Rhys Williams looking good on the right.
In truth, Manly was never under any great pressure and the same could be said for the Sharks as the frenetic pace continued without a clear goal scoring opportunity being created albeit an evenly balanced contest.
Possession slightly favoured the home side but not in the key danger areas as a game that on paper looked to have plenty of goalmouth potential, was proving barren.
A Cholakian free-kick found Dejan Pandurevic on the edge of the box in the 33rd minute however his scuffed shot was blocked en route to the net.
The closest the contest came to a goal was in the final minute of the half when a Hayes corner was met by the head of Nick Littler only to see United goalkeeper Dylan Mitchell, for so a long a bystander, dive majestically to his left to keep the ball out.
It wasn’t a lacklustre first half, but it didn’t bring the crowd to their feet either as the two sides trudged off to the break without troubling the scoreboard attendant.
The second half started brightly enough with a couple of half chances created however in the 50th minute Adam Parkhouse fired in a long range bomb for Manly that was spectacular but wayward as it flew wide of the mark.
The commitment and enterprise was plain to see from both, but what lacked was the patience and calmness in the final third which was crying out for someone to put their foot on the ball and slow the pace down.
Manly made the first change when bring on Payne for Pandurevic on the hour as the visitors looked to break the deadlock.
Lukas Stergiou played the ball out to the left for Jovovic who slipped his defender and centred for O’Connell who was unable to flick the ball home in the 63’ minute in the move of the match thus far.
The highly regarded Charles Lokolingoy replaced Hayes up front for Sutherland with 20th minute remaining and Matthew Castelnuovo replaced Daniel Saric for Manly.
Neither coach seemed prepared to settle for the tame draw and within minutes it was United to hit the lead when Chris Payne found the net with a deft touch from a Parkhouse in-swinging corner.
It was now the visitors who were coming home strongly and pushed for a second goal and Cholakian came close when dipping his shoulder to create space hit a thunderous shot from the edge of the area in 79’ minute that had Sharks skipper Nathan Denham well beaten only to see the ball rebound off the right-hand upright.
Sutherland left itself vulnerable at the back in going for the equaliser and only last ditch defending from Littler and McKenzie thwarted the attacks but with no addition to the score it was Manly who left with the points.
“We didn’t create anything special in the first half and really we needed to slow it down a bit and show a little more maturity in the final third at times. We seemed to cancel each other out for much the 45th minutes,” coach Paul Dee summarised.
“That said, we came out strong after the break and managed to net the winner and to come away from Seymour Shaw with the points is a terrific result for us. Not many teams do that and Rocky (Steve O’Conner) has the side strong defensively.
“From where both sides sit in the table we both need the points and I felt that showed tonight and it looked like a draw to be honest but we’re happy with the win and hopefully build on this in the remaining weeks.”
“We looked positive at times,” replied a disconsolate Steve O’Conner.
“We lacked the patience in front of goal and didn’t create as many opportunities as we normally would at home and it’s a disappointing result really.
“We’ll need to work on our finishing and credit Manly, they seemed to want it more than us tonight but it looked like a draw was written all over the game to be honest. A draw would probably have been a fair result.
“We have a midweek catch-up game against Rockdale and we’ll certainly have to be more clinical in front of goal than we were tonight.”
Sutherland Sharks 0
Manly United 1 (Payne 73’ )
Saturday 25 July, 2015
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Referee: Christopher Young
Assistant Referees: Andrej Giev & Joon Park
Fourth Official: Adam Vainauskas
Sutherland Sharks: Denham ©, Tratt, McKenzie, Littler, Gordon, O’Connell, Jovovic, Stergiou, Moustakas, Figon, Hayes (Lokolingoy 69)
Substitutes Not Used: Roberts, Antoniou, Depta, Caton
Yellow Cards: Tratt 53
Manly United: Mitchell, Lobb, Williams, McDonald, Cholakian ©, Parkhouse, Ferguson (Kuleski 87), Oughtred, Saric (Castelnuovo 69), Padurevic (Payne 60), Gallagher
Substitutes Not Used: McLean, Catlin
Yellow Cards: Cholakian 58’
– By Micky Brock, PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 reporter