A second-half goal from Taylor McDonald has saved Wollongong Wolves from defeat as the league leaders snatched a 2-2 draw against last placed Sutherland Sharks at Seymour Shaw on Saturday.
It was a heartbreaking result for the Sharks who looked on track to end their six game winless streak but instead it was the Wolves who kept a streak alive as they stretched their incredible undefeated run to eight games.
Juan Romero opened the scoring before a stunning scorpion kick goal to Nikola Djordjevic, a serious contender for the goal of the season, cancelled out the lead during the first-half.
Raul Romero tucked the ball away from the spot in the second half to give Sutherland a 2-1 lead, but it wasn’t to be the match winner as McDonald stepped up to net his eleventh for the Wollongong and restore parity for the second and final time on the night.
Sutherland raced out of the blocks from the opening whistle as Jermey Cox curled one toward goal in the 4th minute of play.
His shot snuck past the post after he broke away from the halfway line but Wolves keeper Justin Pasfield had it covered.
Harry Sutherland needed a last ditch tackle to thwart the progress of in-form Wolves’ striker Thomas James as he attempted to cut straight through the heart of the home defence at the other end.
What ensued was a tenacious midfield battle where neither was able to break the shackles and carve open a scoring opportunity.
However, that all changed in the 15th minute when Jordan Morfitis snuck in down the left and centred for Juan Romero to steal in at the near stick to nick into the net ahead of Pasfield giving Sutherland a 1-0 advantage.
Wolves responded well with pressuring the Blues however Juan Romero was able to unleash a rocket in the 24th minute that whistled just over the bar.
The visitors were still to register a shot on target but in the 34th minute they equalised through Djordjevic.
The central defender unleashed a stunning scorpion kick finish to restore parity and possibly win himself goal of the year honours.
The visitors finally sprang into life after a somewhat subdued first-half performance and mounted sustained pressure on the Sharks hitting the crossbar and forcing Sutherland into stoic defence.
Neither Sutherland or Wollongong’s coaches were too happy with their team’s performances in the opening stanza as they went into the sheds locked at 1-1.
As play resumed, Djordjevic turned from hero to villain when he brought down Cox in the box before Raul Romero fired home from the penalty spot to give Sutherland the lead for the second time in the match.
Wollongong’s James, 10-goals in his last seven outings, had Sharks’ stand-in keeper Mitchell Evans flying to his right to tip over from a free-kick on the edge of the box in the 61st minute.
His effort was followed up by Harry Callahan, who met a cross but skewed his effort wide on the volley.
Wollongong were playing catch-up for the second time in the match and were certainly creating the better chances.
A repeat free-kick from an identical position, after Tarik Ercan body checked Callahan, saw James this time go close before it going to McDonald who smashed it home.
From a corner Djordjevic stole in at the back stick and forced Evans into a reaction save however, dogged determination from the Sharks was keeping the wolf from the door.
The visitors were coming home with a strong tour de force.
Another free-kick, from the opposite side in the 85th minute, was again taken by James but was lifted over the woodwork.
An upbeat Luke Wilkshire praised his players resilience to fight their way back into the contest and secure a point.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy, they’re fighting for points and it was like a cup final for them,” he said.
“They really gave it their all and gave it to us and we had to dig in, particularly in the first-half where I felt we were below par and Sutherland deserved to go ahead.
“In the final 30-mins’ we dug in and really went for the win and showed what we can do but there are no easy games in this league and we’ve conceded two goals and come back credit to the boys for their efforts.”
Sharks boss Terry Palapanis was delighted that his side held their own against the competition front runners but rued what might have been.
“I’m happy for the boys tonight, they put in a decent shift and I’d have taken a point before the game if offered,” Palapanis said.
“They are top of the league and have been outstanding so far so to get something from the game is tremendous but, I felt we could have taken all the points but for silly mistakes and cheap fouls at the back.
“The result could have gone either way and we know Wolves are good at set-pieces and they created a bit of danger for us, especially in the second-half.
“I’ll have a peaceful sleep tonight but not as deeply as it might have been.”
Sutherland Sharks 2 (J.Romero 15’, R.Romero 53’p)
Wollongong Wolves 2 (Djordjevic 34’, McDonald 69’)
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Saturday, 27th April, 2019
Referee: Tim Danaskos
Assistant Referees: Matthew McOrist & Nathan Wotton
Fourth Official: Brodie Merchant
Sutherland Sharks: 18.Mitchell Evans, 3.Mark Warren (16.Quivi Fowler 68’), 4.Patrick O’Shea, 7.Juan Carlos Heras Romero, 9.Jeremy Cox, 10.Raul Beneit Romero, 11.Jordan Morfitis (2.Quentin Cheng 61’), 12.Blair Brown, 19.Harry Sutherland 21.Tarik Ercan, 25.Brodie Clarkson (8.Mateo Poljak 88’)
Substitutes not used:, 15.Thomas Papa, 26.Aleksik Mario
Yellow Cards: Sutherland 44’, Warren 45+2’, Ercan 70’
Wollongong Wolves: 1.Justin Pasfield, 2.Taylor McDonald, 3.Darcy Madden (13.Stefan Dimoski 75’), 4.Nikola Djordjevic, 6.Ben Tosi, 9.Thomas James, 11.Takeru Okada (23.Jordan Nikolovski 54’), 14.Harry Callahan, 15.Nick Littler, 16.Guy Knight, 17.James Stojcevski
Substitutes not used: 12.Luke Karies, 19.Tony Musumeci, 25.Brendan Low
Yellow Cards: Drordjevic 53’, Tosi 90+1’
3 – Callahan (WW)
2 – Djordjevic (WW)
1 – McDonald (WW)
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s reporter Micky Brock