A wonderful winters afternoon at Ilinden Sports Centre saw Rockdale City Suns do battle with South Coast Wolves in a match that carried huge ramifications for both teams.
In the end, it was the travelling Wolves that prevailed 3-1, courtesy of a Jordan Murray brace.
An energetic start did not produce a goal, but did set up an intriguing midfield battle between two sides which knew their season could depend on the outcome.
Toufic Alameddine was looking sharp down the Suns’ right flank in the early stages and caused the Wolves defence a few problems with his pace.
Steven Hesketh cut the ball across goal for Marko Jesic, who in turn deftly laid it into the path of skipper Askin Oygur, whose shot from the edge of the area took a bobble and sailed over the bar as the Suns found room and space in the 12th minute.
Rockdale were to have the first meaningful attempt on goal in the 16th minute after Alec Urosevski was unceremoniously upended in a tangle of legs inside the Wolves box when battling desperately for the ball.
Jesic made no mistake from the spot.
South Coast countered through Peter Simonoski, who fired into the side netting in the 22nd minute in overcoming the penalty setback.
Dylan Macallister, still looking for his first Rockdale goal, was making intelligent runs off the ball and pulling the Wolves defence every which way however the elusive strike still eluded the striker and it nearly cost the home side.
Jordan Murray was on the end of a right wing cross only to see his header whistle past the upright in the 31st minute.
Rockdale thought it had doubled its advantage in the 34th minute when Urosevski found the net, only for the goal to be disallowed for an offside decision.
Parity was restored soon after, however, when Sam Matthews powerfully drove home two minutes later.
The crowd, so boisterous moments earlier, was silenced.
It could’ve got worse for the Suns in the 40th minute when Simonoski was put through and tried to side foot past Ivan Necevski with the right peg, only for the custodian to react quickly and keep the ball out with a magnificent reaction save.
Instead of going in to their shell the Wolves were making a fight of it.
Half time came with the scores locked at one apiece and all to play for in the next 45 minutes.
If Rockdale was harboring thoughts of their midweek FFA Cup clash it was soon put to rights during the interval by player-coach Paul Reid, as a more determined home side took to the field after the break.
The Suns were soon put under pressure by a Wolves outfit sensing they could garner all three points.
Matthews almost put the visitors in the lead after a defensive slip from Suns skipper Oygur allowed the striker to power a shot goalward that rebounded back in to play off the upright with a vengeance.
The Wolves defence in return had to desperately block Jesic, twice and then Pat Savor in quick succession at the other end as the ball came out to the midfielder in true end-to-end football.
Macallister played a beautiful knock down to Jesic in the 64th minute however the Suns player snatched at the shot and sent it wide of the upright, Rockdale now asserting itself going forward.
South Coast then laid siege to the Rockdale box with a string of crosses from one side to the other that Rockdale couldn’t clear, making for an entertaining fare indeed.
Both had passages of dominant periods of play in terms of possession yet lacked the finished article in producing the winning goal and when Necevski tipped over a long distance effort from Simonoski it appeared there would see no end to the stalemate.
Hesketh went in heavily against Darcy Madden just inside the area to gift South Coast a penalty that also saw the Suns defender sent off for a second bookable offence.
Up strode Murray only to see Necevski save the first effort however the striker netted the rebound to give the visitors the lead.
It was further extended when Murray added his second and Wolves’ third of the night in the 81st minute after another Necevski block rebounded kindly for the striker to stroke home.
Daniel Stojic still had time to recveive a straight red card in the fourth minute of stoppage time, but it had no bearing on the result and South Coast would travel back to Wollongong with the win and three points in the bag after another impressive display leaving the hosts finals future in the balance.
It was perhaps scant justice for the Suns but this is a tough league to play in and harsh lessons are learned the hard way leaving coach Reid philosophical in the aftermath of battle.
“It’s one of those games where you might look back and think we’ve lost 3-1 when in the first-half we’ve had a disallowed goal and shortly after they get an equaliser but it was our poorest performance for a while to be honest and we lacked the intensity we’ve shown in recent weeks,” Reid said.
“We were second to the ball and weren’t urgent enough and Wolves were more desperate and it showed.
“They showed they wanted it more and I guess we’ve had a lot of games but we need to keep going hard until the end of the season and that includes our FFA Cup game here on Wednesday night.
“We need to finish strongly and that is what we will set out to do.”
Wolves coach Jacob Timpano was delighted with the result.
“Rockdale probably had the better of the first half, but it was a soft penalty to give away that went against us.
“But credit to them, as it was their third game in a week and I think that showed in the second half particularly, but I’ve told our guys I’m proud of their work ethic and performance not just today but since I took over and I believe in this team.
“I know the culture of the club and I feel we are a better side who can perform to a higher level and the guys have responded well and will continue to do so and we don’t know how far we can go this season or next but we’ll give it all and no-one can ask any more than that.
“We’re very pleased with the three points and the way in which they were won and we’ll do our very best in the remaining fixtures.”
Rockdale City Suns 1 (Jesic 17’p )
South Coast Wolves 3 (Matthews 36’, Murray 77’p, 81 )
Sunday 2nd August, 2015
Ilinden Sports Centre, Rockdale
Referee: Daniel Stack
Assistant Referees: Lance Greenshields & Scott Edeling
Fourth Official: Adam Vainauskas
Rockdale City Suns: Necevski, Petkovski, Hesketh, Muruyama, Urosevski (Iwamoto 86), Macallister, Jesic, El Haffiene, Alameddine, Savor (Tanoski 77’), Oygur ©
Substitutes Not Used: Bradasevic, Reid, Petrillo
Yellow Cards: Petkovski 43’, Hesketh 58’
Red Cards: Hesketh 76
South Coast Wolves: Manos, Madden (Alsaad 80), Griffin, Baldacchino, Mackenzie, Price ©, Stojic, Simonoski (Zucco 84), O’Rourke, Matthews, Murray (Welch 90’)
Substitutes Not Used: Hamilton, Lavalle
Yellow Cards: Matthews 19’, Madden 60’, Mackenzie 82
Red Cards: Stojic 90+4