Blacktown City have limped into the finals series after going down 2-0 to Sutherland Sharks at Lily Homes Stadium on Sunday.
The loss was Blacktown’s second defeat in as many weeks with both losses coming against teams in the bottom three.
In an at times uninspiring contest, Sutherland stung Blacktown with two second half goals courtesy of Nick Littler and Adrian Vranic.
The result was a winning send off for Sharks coach Grant Lee who announced his decision to leave the club at the conclusion of the regular season.
For Blacktown they will need to rediscover the form which had them at the top of the table during the opening rounds of the competition when they host Rockdale City Suns in next week’s elimination final.
The match began at a meandering pace with neither posing any real threat in the opening exchanges.
It took six minutes for the first chance of the game when Connor Evans broke free of the defence with a marauding run but he was foiled by a onrushing Ryan Norval.
Joey Gibbs had a half chance 16 minutes in after a brilliant ball from Devante Clut. The former Newcastle Jets and Western Sydney Wanderers striker was unable to make the most of the chance and fired it straight at norval.
Sutherland had their best moment of the first stanza 37 minutes in. A brilliant run and pass from Leroy Jennings found Keisuke Hyashi in space but he couldn’t beat the keeper with his low shot.
Danny Choi should’ve done better with his effort in the 38th minute when he fizzed a shot from the right edge of the penalty box narrowly over the crossbar
There was no new found urgency from either Sutherland or Blacktown at the start of the second half with both sides seemingly just going through the motions.
Nick Olsen’s fast feet was proving to be the visitors best chance in attack and it was the speedster who turned the game on its head 57 minutes in.
Olsen received the ball in space on the edge of the box and took the ball past his marker before ping-ponging the ball with Tratt whose one touch pass allowed Vranic to tap the ball into the back of the net for a shock 1-0 lead.
With a little over 15 minutes left on the clock, Sutherland doubled their lead.
Nick Littler took the ball past two Blacktown defenders before nestling his shot into the back of the net.
Blacktown had a chance to get on the score board in the 82nd minute through Gibbs but the striker couldn’t keep his shot down.
With little to take away from the fixture no matter the result, Blacktown lacked their usual ferocity in the closing stages and never looked like making a late comeback.
The final whistle cemented a consolation win for Sutherland while blacktown limp into the finals despite back to back losses to teams in the bottom three.
Blacktown Assistant coach Luke Roodenburg was at a loss for his side’s recent form slump.
“We really can’t pinpoint what has gone wrong for us because the boy’s attitude at training has remained exemplary all season,” he said.
“Today was a difficult match as no matter the result we had nothing to gain and nothing to lose.
“We struggled to find a cutting edge in attack and it cost us.
“Our focus is now 100% on the finals and the game against Rockdale. There is no second chances now so how we respond in the next seven days could define our season.”
Sutherland coach Grant Lee was reflective after his final match in charge of the Sharks.
“It was an absolute brilliant performance today and it goes to show what these players are capable of,” he said.
“We were thrown all sorts of challenges this season with injury after injury as well as other issues which have held us back.
“I felt the win today really summed up what this group of players is capable of and the fact we won’t have the chance to prove ourselves in the finals is bittersweet.”
Blacktown City FC : 0
Sutherland Sharks FC: 2 (Vranic 57′, Littler 73’)
Sunday, August 12 2018
Lily Homes Stadium, Seven Hills
Referee: C Fisher
Assistant Referees: S Edeling & J Park
Fourth official: J Casey
Blacktown City FC: 1. Tristan Prendergast, 3. Giorgio Speranza, 4. Roberto Speranza, 5. Grant Lynch, 6. Matthew Lewis, 7. Devante Clut, 8. Daniel Araujo, 9. Joey Gibbs, 10. Connor Evans, 11. Danny Choi (18. Mason Versi 65′), 16. Mark Rodic (19. Zachary Cairncross 65′)
Substitutes not used: 20. Stevan Savicic, 23. Daniel Bragg
Sutherland Sharks FC: 1. Ryan Norval, 2. Jacob Tratt, 5. Brad Bartels, 7. Stephen Kayes (26. Harry Sutherland), 8. Evan Patramanis, 9. Adrian Vranic,, 11. Hristijan Tanoski, 15. Nicholas Littler, 17. Leroy Jennings, 20. Keisuke Hayashi, 22. Nicholas Olsen
Substitutes not used: 21. Nikolas Loe, 3. Richard Stewart, , 27. Harrison Quirk