An outstanding second-half performance has helped Wollongong Wolves run over APIA Leichhardt Tigers in a comprehensive 4-0 at WIN Stadium on Saturday.
A brace from the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s leading marksman Thomas James – who extended his goal-scoring tally to 15 goals for the campaign – headlined the Wolves’ strong second half turn as they scored four unanswered goals to secure victory.
The result means Wollongong has cracked open a six-point lead over second placed APIA to further their dominance at the top of the competition.
Neither side found the back of the net in a tense opening half.
The Tigers had the best opportunity in the 3rd minute after key attacker Chris Payne was unable to get a foot to a smooth skipper Sean Symons cross from the left-hand flank.
It was Wollongong’s Takeru Okada who broke open the deadlock in the 58th minute.
The Japenese midfielder collected a pass from Benjamin Tosi before firing home a powerful effort from the left-hand side of the box.
Wollongong doubled their advantage seven minutes later after a quick break through the middle of the park reached the feet of Lachlan Scott.
The Wolves’ forward quickly tapped the ball past Necevski and into the bottom left corner to make it 2-0
James nabbed his first goal of the evening in the 78th minute.
The prolific striker burst past the APIA backline to get on the end of a Scott through-ball before deftly chipping the ball over a diving Necevski.
Wollongong secured the result with a final goal in the 90th minute when James again showed his pace to craft a quick counter-attack, before rounding the keeper and firing into an empty net.
Wolves coach Luke Wilkshire was pleased with his side’s win and noted they are continuing to gain confidence by regularly finding the back of the net.
“I felt we had a good first half, we played some really good football,” he said.
“It didn’t quite break for us in front of goal, but the message [for the second half] was more of the same. Get it down and play it in those areas and chances will come, because eventually they will fatigue.
“Scoring is confidence. You look at Takeru [Okada] and that’s three games in a row he has scored, and TJ [Thomas James] we know can score and having Lachie [Lachlan Scott] get on the scoresheet again, it’s great to have him back.
“We played some great football and we did what we wanted to do which is obviously to win games, score goals and entertain the crowd.”
Meanwhile Tigers coach John Calleja was disappointed with the performance but is unwilling to call the title race over despite the six-point gap.
“I was reasonably happy with the way we went in the first half, although Wollongong looked good, but I thought we showed a lot of desperation and determination in the first half,” he said.
“But the second half, we lost a lot of possession, we conceded the first goal and then didn’t really lift and roll our sleeves up and work and sort of fell into a trap, conceded a second goal and then a few dumb errors and it wasn’t a good day.
“There are 27 points to go and a lot of twists and turns. If we won today, we would have been equal with the Wolves and I still think there would have been a lot of twists and turns to go with nine games left to go.
“Two years ago, when we won the comp we were six points behind with four games to go and we won the comp, so there is still a lot of game time and football to be played.
“They [Wollongong] deserve all the credit they get for today’s performance and for what they have done so far this season, but we need to think of a better way if we play them again during the bigger games of the season to find a way to be better.”
Wollongong Wolves will return to action on Wednesday night as they take on Mount Druitt Town Rangers for a spot in the FFA Cup Round of 32 at Ian McLennan Park, while the Tigers will be hoping to return to winning ways when they host Sutherland Sharks at Lambert Park on Sunday with former Sydney United 58 skipper Nick Stavroulakis set to make his debut for the club as they attempt to close the gap between themselves and Wollongong.
Wollongong Wolves 4 (Takeru Okada 58’, Lachlan Scott 65’, Thomas James 78’, 90’)
A.P.I.A. Leichhardt Tigers FC 0
Saturday 1st June, 2019
WIN Stadium, Wollongong
Referee: Ben Abraham
Assistant Referees: B. Wright and J. Adabjou
Fourth Official: L. Cole
Wollongong Wolves: 1. Justin Pasfield, 2. Taylor McDonald, 4. Nikola Djordjevic, 6. Benjamin Tosi (17. James Stojcevski 62’), 7. Christopher Price, 9. Thomas James, 11. Takeru Okada, 14. Harry Callahan (3. Darcy Madden 73’), 15. Nick Littler, 16. Guy Knight, 24. Lachlan Scott (25. Bul Juach 79’)
Substitutes Not Used: 12. Luke Kairies (GK), 20. Liam Wille
Yellow Cards: Lachlan Scott 50’
Red Cards: Nil
A.P.I.A. Leichhardt Tigers FC: 1. Ivan Necevski, 3. Paul Galimi, 4. Josh Symons, 6. Christopher Payne, 7. Tynan Diaz (21. Michael Kouta 72’), 8. Corey Biczo, 10. Franco Parisi (13. Andre De Jong 71’), 12. Sam McIllhatton, 15. Themba Muata-Marlow, 16. Sean Symons, 18. Adrian Ucchino
Substitutes Not Used: 14. Lachlan Hughes, 17. Samuel Gulisano, 22. Blake Tuxford (GK)
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
3 – Thomas James (Wollongong Wolves)
2 – Takeru Okada (Wollongong Wolves)
1 – Benjamin Tosi (Wollongong Wolves)
By National Premier Leagues NSW Reporter Cal Behrendt (@CalBehrendt)