It was the same old story for Manly United on Sunday afternoon in their 2-1 PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s defeat against Sutherland at Cromer Park.
Celebrating Heritage Round, the hosts were keen to put on a show, but once again poor finishing was their Achilles heel.
Following a dour opening, United’s Nikola Taneski fired a warning shot from distance in the 18th minute.
Two minutes later the away side should have taken the lead.
The usually reliable Nathan Elasi found himself unmarked in the area, but the striker snatched at his effort, hitting it wide of the target.
It proved costly with Manly taking the lead after 25 minutes.
Brendan Cholakian burst into the area before gliding the ball past Sutherland keeper Nikolas Loe.
With 33 minutes on the clock Taneski almost doubled Manly’s lead.
The always dangerous attacker jinked and found room in the box, but Sharks defender Nick Littler positioned himself perfectly, blocking Taneski’s effort.
On 42 minutes Taneski turned provider.
He whipped in a decent ball but Sipan Berti header over the half chance.
Manly attempted to kill the contest after the break.
Dom Ferguson blazed over a loose ball from a Jamie Lobb corner on 49 minutes and moments later that man Littler was on hand to deny Taneski from point blank range.
When Berti then missed a 1v1 against Loe just before the hour mark, you sensed it might be Sutherland’s day.
On 62 minutes they equalised.
Manly substitute Mitchell Rooke casually turned over a ball on halfway and the Sharks broke quickly.
Elasi capitalised, taking a touch before slotting an effort past Manly shot stopper Dylan Mitchell.
Minutes later Josh Da Silva volleyed over for the away side and then seconds down the other end Sam Wilson had a huge chance to give Manly the lead again.
The left back blazed over after Cholakian played him in, with the chorus of groans in the Lucas Neill Grandstand telling the story.
A winner was inevitable in what was an end to end second stanza and Sharks striker Tomohiro Kajiyama provided it.
The Japanese import squeezed a shot past Mitchell at the near post, sparking jubilant scenes from the visitors bench.
On 75 and 76 minutes Taneski had two chances for Manly to square the ledger, with the second blocked by man of the match Littler.
Cholakian almost rescued a point for Manly with 84 minutes played, only to see his sharp effort smack against the post and out to safety.
Littler described the contest at ‘hard fought’ at the final whistle.
"We are finally starting to take our chances,” he said.
"I thought we showed some good character to come from a goal down.
"In the first half we battled well, and then after the break we scored two goals, so job done."
Manly’s Rhys Williams said it was another game his teammates were left pondering what may have been.
"If you don’t score from the chances we had, you don’t win games,” he said.
"We also had a few guys out injured, but our squad depth is decent enough to get a result in games like that.
"I still think we can still mount a case to finish in the top five, if not higher.
"We are leaking too many goals, we certainly need to address that."
Manly United 1 (Brendan Cholakian 25′)
Sutherland 2 (Nathan Elasi 62′, Tomohiro Kajiyama 70′)
Cromer Park, Sunday May 28, 2017
Assistant referees: S.Edeling, T.Lee
Fourth official: A.Mansour
Manly United: 1.Dylan MITCHELL, 2.Kieren PAULL, 3.Jamie LOBB, 4.Travis OUGHTRED, (12.Leigh EGGER 62′), 6.Dom FERGUSON, 8.Sasa MACURA, (28.Mitchell ROOKE 46′) 10.Brendan CHOLAKIAN, 11.Nikola TANESKI, 16.Sipan BERTI, 17.Sam WILSON, 19.Daniel SARIC (5.Rhys WILLIAMS 73′)
Substitutes not used: 20.Shaun CATLIN, 33.Jamie GLOVER
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil
Sutherland Sharks: 21.Nikolas LOE, 3.Takuya MURAYAMA, 4.Stephen KAYES, 5.Nick LITTLER, 8.Chris McSTAY, (30.Lachlan EVERETT 71′) 9.Tomohiro KAJIYAMA, 10.Josh DA SILVA, (7.Jack PRESS 81′) 11.Nathan ELASI, 12.Blair BROWN, 13.Jeremy COX, 31.Rob WATSON (27.Harrison QUIRK 90′)
Substitutes not used: 1.Nathan DENHAM
Yellow cards: Press 89′, Kayes 90′
Red cards: Nil
3 – Nick Littler (SS)
2 – Brendan Cholakian (MU)
1 – Nathan Elasi (SS)
-By PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s reporter Andrew Prentice