Ilinden Sports Centre was the setting for an entertaining, if somewhat one-sided, local derby when Sutherland Sharks arrived at the home of Rockdale City Suns.
The re-arranged round 18 fixture played out on a chilly evening, but it was the Suns who delighted the home crowd with another fantastic performance to keep its push for finals alive.
The Suns wasted no time in getting on the front foot when in the 2nd minute a Marko Jesic free-kick forced Sharks skipper Nathan Denham to punch clear from under his bar as the home team sought to seek the early advantage.
It was Jesic again who cantered onto a through ball from Toufic Almeddine in the 5th minute, but off balance he blasted hopelessly high and wide as another chance went begging.
He followed it up three minutes later with a long-range effort straight at Denham.
Sutherland responded with an Alek Jovovic corner that Jordan Figon couldn’t keep on target with their first attempt on goal in the game after weathering the early storm and slowly starting to find their feet.
Rockdale opened the scoring in the 19th minute when another Jesic free-kick into the box appeared to get the merest of touches by Dylan Macallister as it was turned into the net.
The goal would have been Macallister’s first for the Suns, but the former A-League forward was denied as the goal was actually an own goal to Nick Littler who wrong footed Denham at the near stick.
Dylan Caton, playing at right back for Sutherland, received the first caution of the evening after 32 minutes after an altercation on the far side of the pitch.
The trainers were called on immediately for Caton and Steven Hesketh, for Rockdale, when both cannoned into the fence as the former chased down the ball on the right flank with Sutherland attacking.
The incident appeared worse than it was and both players continued to play.
Soon after, Charles Lokolingoy slipped the ball out wide to Jovovic whose pinpoint cross found the young striker in space but he couldn’t direct his header goal-ward to work Ivan Necevski between the sticks in a deft sweeping move.
Macallister forced a magnificent save out of Denham in stoppage time of the first-half, but the keeper did well to get down to his left.
The resulting corner was delayed when Nick Littler required treatment inside the area, however Rockdale couldn’t take advantage of the superior numbers with the Sharks defender off the pitch when the Suns should have doubled their lead seconds later when Idriss El Hafiane rattled the crossbar from distance.
The Suns took a 1-0 lead into the break and they were worth their lead.
On the restart Lucas Stergiou replaced Littler who was unable to continue and Jordan Figon, who had received scant service when leading the forward line for Sutherland, by Seongjin Park.
Just prior, it was Alec Urosevski who warmed the hands of Denham once more.
Pat Savor doubled the advantage for the Suns in the 61st minute when from 25 yards he hit the ball with the outside of the right foot to bend the ball past the out-stretched Denham with a peach of a strike.
Sutherland’s walking wounded had a mountain to climb before the second strike and the task before them looked near impossible on the night.
With 72 minutes on the clock it was a case of what we have, we hold, for Rockdale as Paul Reid rang the changes and brought himself on for Jesic and replaced Macallister with Hristijan Tanoski, the home side still harbouring thoughts of a top five finish and finals football.
Dylan Caton received a second caution in the 79th minute to be marched off the ground after an innocuous looking challenge on Toufic Almeddine that was more hard luck than intention and Sutherland were reduced to 10-men.
The match was now certainly beyond the visitors grasp as Rockdale’s winning run was set to continue.
The mission was made totally impossible in the 87th minute when the substitute Tanoski played in Iwamoto to blast past a stranded Denham.
Suns coach Reid was delighted with the result.
“We started off very well and Sutherland had a period of about 20 minutes in the first half where they put us under pressure but overall we were the better team and we even created the better chances in the first 45 minutes,” Reid said.
“It was a comfortable win in the end and we’ve shown we are a team who can score goals but in the last couple of months we’ve been able to tighten things up at the back and become a side that is proving hard to break down.
“It’s not in our own hands yet but we’ve stolen a break on the chasing pack and all we can do is concentrate on our own results and aim for a top five placing and finals football.”
Steve O’Connor was again disconsolate.
“They got a deflection for the opening goal but we came back into the match but we couldn’t go on with it,” O’Connor said.
“We have a number of injured players, the walking wounded but that cannot be used as an excuse and we’ll have a few missing in the coming weeks so it’s a chance for some of the younger players to step up and for us to have a look at them. We’ll keep battling until the end of the season and see where it takes us.”
Rockdale City Suns 3 (Littler 19’og, Savor 61’, Iwamoto 87’ )
Sutherland Sharks 0
Wednesday 29 July, 2015
Ilinden Sports Centre, Rockdale
Referee: Adrian Arndt
Assistant Referees: Lance Greenshields & Janush Adabjou
Fourth Official: Jordan Lake
Rockdale City Suns: Necevski, Petkovski, Hesketh, Muruyama, Urosevski (Iwamoto 80), Macallister (Tanoski 72), Jesic (Reid 72), El Haffiene, Alameddine, Savor, Oygur ©
Substitutes Not Used: Petrillo, Sorras
Sutherland Sharks: Denham ©, McKenzie, Littler (Stergiou 46), Gordon (Bandur 58), O’Connell, Jovovic, Moustakas, Figon (Park 51), Hayes, Caton, Lokolingoy
Substitutes Not Used: Depta, Cox
Yellow Cards:Caton 32’, Jovovic 63’
Red Cards: Caton 79
– By Micky Brock, PS4 NPL NSW Men’s 1 Reporter, at Illenden Sports Centre.