Wollongong Wolves’ stellar campaign produced another impressive scalp on Sunday afternoon as they cruised to a clinical 4-0 victory over Manly United at Cromer Park.
A determined Manly outfit could not contain another classy Thomas James performance, who despite battling illness in the lead up to the match thumped home the opening goal 24 minutes in before going on to register a hat-trick of assists.
An inspired substitution from Luke Wilkshire saw Lachlan Scott double the lead with his first touch moments after being introduced in the 54th minute, before bagging a brace half an hour later to secure the three points.
Takeru Okada then backed up his own brace last time out with a stoppage time strike to cap off a quality Wollongong performance.
Manly United enjoyed extended spells of possession and threatened through set pieces, but ultimately were unable to penetrate a resolute Wollongong defensive unit.
The victory was the Wolves’ second at Cromer Park in the space of a week after they came from behind to trump local association side Pittwater RSL 2-1 in the FFA Cup on Wednesday night.
The result ensures they remain three points clear of APIA Leichhardt Tigers on top of the NSW National Premier League Mens’ table.
In a tight opening to Sunday’s contest, Manly engineered a couple of decent opportunities through last weekend’s star man Charles Mendy, who saw his header nestle on the top of Justin Pasfield’s net four minutes in.
However it did not take long for the competition’s leading scorer James to leave a stamp on proceedings.
The Englishman uncharacteristically failed to convert a one-on-one opportunity 15 minutes in thanks to a sharp Dylan Mitchell stop, but was to make amends with his 13th goal of the season less than ten minutes later.
The 24th minute saw James gather the ball on the edge of the area with his back to goal, however in a flash he had the ball in the back of the net.
An inch of space granted to him by the Manly defence was enough for the marksman to turn on a sixpence and unleash a deadly finish into the top right corner that left Mitchell with no chance.
Ten minutes into the second half, substitute Lachlan Scott afforded the visitors some breathing room with his first contribution.
A miscued clearance from Mitchell fell to the feet of Thomas James in space just inside Manly’s half, allowing for him to drive towards the penalty area and chip a cute ball into to the path of the former Western Sydney Wanderer.
Scott’s close-range header looked to have been spectacularly denied by the outstretched palm of Mitchell, however to the dismay of the shot-stopper the ball still nestled in the back of the net.
Manly then enjoyed a brief period of dominance, however despite posing a constant threat off set pieces through Sam Gallagher in particular, they failed to break through.
The hosts could not have come any closer on a couple of occasions; a last-ditch goal-line clearance from Nikola Djordjevic denied Dejan Pandurevic on the hour mark, and a header from substitute Bradley McDonald grazed the woodwork in the 82nd minute.
Two minutes later their misery was compiled, as a tireless Thomas James continued his assault on the Manly area with another cross that yet again found the head of Scott, who doubled his tally for the day.
Manly’s desperate attempts to gather a glimmer of hope continued to fall wide of the mark, however it was an entirely different story for the Wolves who grabbed a fourth in the 91st minute through Takeru Okada.
A deadly counter-attack saw James unleash the Japanese winger through on goal, allowing for him to calmly roll the ball into the bottom right corner and cap off a perfect week for Luke Wilkshire’s men.
Speaking post-game, Wilkshire was impressed by his team’s showing as he reflected on the week that had been.
“Those were two completely different wins, and two different levels of performance I will have to be honest,” the Wollongong boss said.
“Up here (Cromer Park), away from home, is not an easy place to come.
“But I can do nothing but credit the boys, who stepped it up and played really well today.
“They (Manly) were very dangerous on set pieces but we defended them really well.
“I knew that at 2-0 down with fifteen minutes to go they would throw men forward which is what they did, but credit to the defence for holding out.”
Wilkshire praised the output of his deadly attacking force who continue to terrorise defences week in week out.
“We have the quality to hurt teams going forward.
“He (Thomas James) was telling me how he has not been well, since last night.
“He has continued to show his quality, but we have a lot of quality in the squad as a whole.
“Lachlan Scott scored two great goals today and continues to do what he does best.”
Manly boss Paul Dee contributed his own praise to the competition pace-setters in summarising what was a tough day at the office for his side.
“Today Wollongong were on their game and we paid the price,” he reflected.
“Their clinical nature and execution in the front third has been one of their real strengths all year and today was no different.
“They are organised at the back, have really good structure in midfield, and in the attacking third they are quite lethal.
“They have some really talented players and today they made a big difference.
“I think teams know what they want to do against Wollongong but they a very good side and you need to execute it very well in order to beat them.
“Our execution wasn’t as good as it has been recently.
“It blew out in the end as we tried to get forward and left ourselves susceptible at the back.”
Manly United FC 0
Wollongong Wolves FC 4 (James 24’, Scott 54’, 84’, Okada 91’)
Sunday 26th May, 2019
Cromer Park, Dee Why
Referee: C. Fisher
Assistant Referees: R. Osborne, P. Teleki
Fourth Official: P. Reynolds
Manly United: 1. Dylan Mitchell, 2. Kieran Paull, 4. Travis Oughtred. 5. Sam Gallagher, 6. Joseph Fox (23. Bradley McDonald 63’), 7. Sam Wilson (9. Nikola Taneski 81’), 8. Dominic Ferguson 10. Brendan Cholakian, 11. Adam Parkhouse, 12. Charles Mendy (13. Scott Balderson 63’), 14. Dejan Pandurevic
Substitutes not used: 20. Samuel Benton, 17. Lewis Miccio
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
Wollongong Wolves: 1. Justin Pasfield, 2. Taylor McDonald, 4. Nikola Djordjevic, 6. Benjamin Tosi, 7. Christopher Price (23. Liam Wille 83’), 9. Thomas James, 11. Takeru Okada, 14. Harry Callahan (3. Darcy Madden 70’), 15. Nick Littler, 16. Guy Knight, 17. Bul Juach (24. Lachlan Scott 54’)
Substitutes not used: 12. Luke Kairies, 19. Tory Musumeci
Yellow Cards: Tosi 60’, Knight 75’, Wille 86’, Pasfield 87’
Red Cards: Nil
3- Thomas James (WW)
2- Lachlan Scott (WW)
1- Nikola Djordjevic (WW)
-By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Reporter Chris Curulli (Twitter: @ChrisCurulli)