A breathless second stanza saw Manly United and Mt. Druitt Town Rangers play out a dramatic 2-2 draw in a storm-affected fixture at Cromer Park on Saturday night.
In a clash that was originally scheduled to take place at Mt Druitt’s Popendetta Park, mother nature continued to wreak havoc as the devoted Northern Beaches crowd saw kick off delayed by over an hour due to nearby lightning.
And while the contest initially threatened to fizzle out into obscurity, a frenetic final forty-five minutes saw four goals scored in the space of sixteen minutes.
The visitors clawed back Manly on two occasions, as set piece strikes courtesy of Cooper Coskiere and Nick Trimble cancelled out a Brendan Cholakian brace.
It was a gutsy performance from the visitors, who created their fair share of opportunities to win it despite losing three players to injury in the first half and being pinned back by a determined Manly side for extended periods.
The delayed kick off surely played a part in what was a scrappy first half.
Manly were the quicker out of the blocks, creating the first clear cut chance of the match inside the opening half an hour through some Brendan Cholakian trickery.
Manly’s number 10’s low drive sailed narrowly wide of the mark, however proved to be a foreshadowing of what was to come later in the night.
Whilst the Rangers’ early momentum was disturbed by injuries to Hiten Satoh, Fabricio Fernandez and Lachlan Roberts over the period, their frontman Alex Boyadjian found room to test the resolve of Manly custodian Dylan Mitchell on multiple occasions.
With the picturesque backdrop of distant lightning strikes illuminating the night sky, the match was belatedly sparked into life on the 55 minute mark as Nikola Taneski was dragged to ground and the hosts were awarded a spot kick.
Cholakian stepped up and confidently dispatched the ball into the bottom left corner, sending Saliadarre the wrong way.
However Manly were unable to enjoy their lead for long.
A 63rd minute Mt. Druitt corner caused a frantic goal-mouth scramble, resulting in substitute Cooper Coskiere bundling the ball home to the delight of the visitors.
Yet similarly, their jubilation soon evaporated thanks to a piece of individual brilliance from Manly’s number 10 five minutes later.
Picking up the ball out wide, Cholakian danced his way infield and forged a plausible sight on goal before unleashing a venomous curling effort that left a soaring Saliadarre with no chance.
Despite the strike being worthy of deciding any contest, a stubborn Mt. Druitt outfit had other ideas.
Just four minutes later, Nick Trimble rose highest off a long-range range free kick to flick the ball past Dylan Mitchell, restoring parity yet again.
Despite the scoreline remaining consistent from that point on, the final twenty minutes produced no shortage of drama.
On 78 minutes, a parried Joe Fox strike fell perfectly to the feet of that man Cholakian, however to the dismay of the Cromer Park gallery, he spurned his hat-trick chance with a feeble strike straight into the palms of Saliadarre.
The sense of frustration in the air only grew on 88 minutes, as Jamie Glover broke the offside trap, cutting the ball back to fellow substitute Dejan Pandurevic, who thumped the ball into the back of the net.
But a raised flag from the referee’s assistant, who had adjudged the ball to have passed the by-line, cut short celebrations.
A minute later Manly were almost made to pay approaching stoppage time, as Boyadjian broke through on goal, only to have his squared pass cut out by a tireless Kieren Paul, who was one of the standout performers of the night.
Ultimately, despite a heart-stopping conclusion, both clubs were forced into a share of the spoils, continuing their winless starts to the campaign.
Man-of-the-match Brendan Cholakian was understandably disappointed with the ultimate outcome:
“It’s disappointing,” he said.
“I thought we played really well all over the park.
“We knew their threat was set pieces coming into the match but we just gave them too many. When you give them that many they are probably going to score one or two.
“I think we fully deserved the three points so it is a bit of a kick in the guts to come away with a draw at home.
“We just have to keep working collectively and hopefully start to pick up the wins we deserve.”
Mt Druitt skipper Mathew Clowes echoed Cholakian’s sentiments, whilst praising his side’s response to a tough set of circumstances:
“You can take some positives out of getting a point but you always want the three,” he said.
“It was a bit of a rough night losing three players in the first half, all through knocks and a dislocated shoulder.
“You have to learn from every game. We’ll rebuild and recoup and get some new blood in for next week.
“I thought some of the young boys who stepped in tonight did really well, so they will get their opportunity next week and we’ll take it from there.”
Manly continue their quest for a maiden victory on the road at Marconi Stadium next Saturday, whilst Mt Druitt travel to Illinden as they face Rockdale City Suns the following afternoon.
Manly United FC 2 (Brendan Cholakian 56’, 68’ )
Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC 2 (Cooper Coskerie 63’, Nick Trimble 72’ )
Saturday 23rd March, 2019
Cromer Park, Dee Why
Referee: B. Abraham
Assistant Referees: K. Robinson, M. Price
Fourth Official: A. Brett
Manly United FC: 1. Dylan Mitchell, 2. Kieren Paull, 4. Travis Oughtred, 5. Sam Gallagher, 6. Joseph Fox, 8. Dom Ferguson, 9. Nikola Taneski (22. Jamie Glover 73’) 10. Brendan Cholakian, 11. Adam Parkhouse (12. Charles Mendy 81’, 13. Scott Balderson (14. Dejan Pandurevic 66’) 17. Lewis Miccio,
Substitutes Not Used: 32. Mackenzie Syron, 22. Jamie Glover, 3. Jamie Lobb, 12. Charles Mendy, 14. Dejan Pandurevic
Yellow Cards: Dom Ferguson 70’
Red Cards: Nil
Mt Druitt Town Rangers: 1. Carlos Saliadarre, 2. Hiten Satoh (14. Felipe Zapata 15’), 3. Lachlan Roberts (23. Adrian Vranic 45’) , 5. Jake Mamome 6. Blake Thompson,, 8. Matthew Clowes, 9.Alex Boyadjian, 10.Fabricio Fernandez (15. Cooper Coskerie 14’), 12. Nick Trimble, 13. Lord Darkoh, 17. Jordan Gomez
Substitutes Not Used: Matthew Nikolovski, 19. Solomon Monahan
Yellow Cards: Matthew Clowes 39’, Jake Mamome 47’, Lord Darkoh 60’, Alex Boyadjian 80’
Red Cards: Nil
3 – Brendon Cholakian (MU)
2 – Kieren Paull (MU)
1 – Cooper Coskerie (MDT)
– By NPL NSW Reporter Chris Curulli (Twitter handle @ChrisCurulli)