A whirlwind second half performance has helped Wollongong Wolves fightback from an early deficit to clinch a comprehensive 4-1 win against Mt Druitt Town Rangers at Popondetta Park on Saturday night.
After a below par first 45 mintues, the Luke Wilkshire coached Wolves hit top gear after the break to end Mt Druitt’s four game winning streak and stretch their lead at the top of the competition to eight points
Mt Druitt thought they were a chance of a shock upset when Mirjan Pavlovic struck after 18 minutes to give the home side a shock 1-0 lead.
But it was a different story after the interval with Wollongong striking twice through Darcy Madden and Thomas James to take a 2-1 lead only 12 minutes into the second half.
A bizarre brain snap from Rangers defender Blake Thompson meant the home side were forced to fight on with only ten men and the Wolves took full advantage with former Western Sydney Wanderers front man Lachlan Scott scoring a brace to wrap up a 4-1 win.
It was a strong start from the visitors who forced Rangers custodian Carlos Saliadarre into two clutch saves in the opening ten minutes.
However, against the run of play, Mt Druitt found the breakthrough.
John Roberts won the ball on the wing after a poor Wolves clearance and delivered a pinpoint cross for Pavlovic to head home and give the home side a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute – It was the burly strikers tenth goal of the year included ones he netted with his former side the Marconi Stallions before switching to the Rangers.
The goal scared Wollongong into action and pushed forward with James and Scott creating plenty of headaches for the Rangers defence without actually threatening to find the back of the net.
Sloppiness in possession was proving costly for the visitors and they were lucky to not fall two goals behind when Pavlovic plucked the ball off a defender and bullied his way into the penalty area before his shot was parried out by Pasfield for a corner.
Wollongong were not at their ruthless best but remained committed to sending attack after attack at the Mt Druitt defence.
In the 42nd minute Scott spurned a half chance when he headed wide after breaking free of his marker six yards out from goal.
Saliadarre was called into action only moments later as he dropped to save a low and powerful shot from James before making another save on the very next play tipping another rasping save wide for a corner.
The home side would cling onto their 1-0 lead at the interval with Wollongong unable to capitalise on their chances late in the half.
It took only seven minutes into the second stanza for the Wolves to draw even when halftime substitute Madden lept high to head home from a well delivered corner kick to make it 1-1.
The goal opened the floodgates for Wollongong who found the back of the net five minutes later to take a 2-1 lead.
Star striker James just had to tap home after being set up with a perfect pass from Scott to score his 19th goal of the campaign.
Fernandez looked to re-ignite Mt Druitt’s attack with a stinging driven free-kick but it was saved by Pasfield.
However, they still couldn’t stop a fired up Wolves attack who immediately raced up the other end to score their third goal of the game.
Saliadarre did well to deny a James breakaway but he was unable to block Scott from tapping the ball home on the follow-up.
It only went from bad for worse for the home side.
Defender Thompson was sent for an early shower after receiving a second yellow for lashing out at Wollongong’s James Stojcevski reducing Mt Druitt to only ten-men for the final 15 minutes of the contest.
The Rangers went inches from cutting the deficit after a header from Monahan Vaiika clanged against the cross bar after a corner from Toufic Alameddine.
While Mt Druitt were desperate to not to go down without a fight, Wollongong had other ideas with Scott catching the home defence off guard to stretch the visitors lead to 4-1 in the 85th minute. The former Wanderer notched up his tenth for the year.
A relentless Wolves side refused to take it easy in the dying moments of the match with Saliadarre forced to make a few more acrobatic saves to stop his side conceding a fifth goal.
Wollongong coach Luke Wilkshire was impressed with the way his team was able to bounce back in the second half.
“What stood out to me the most in the win is the way we did it,” he said.
“You have to give credit to the boys for the way they came out in the second half and take control of the match.
“Mt Druitt is a tough away trip so we are very happy to go home with all three points.”
The defeat was a bitter pill to swallow for Mt Druitt boss Aidan Desmond who felt his side paid the price for costly errors.
“We didn’t take possession of the ball well enough and gave them too much space,” he said.
“We controlled the game in the first 45 minutes but it was a different story in the second as they dominated the half to secure the win.
“Look this defeat isn’t the end of our season or anything like that. We’ll continue to fight until the last round and hopefully the results go our way.”
Mt Druitt Town Rangers 1 (Pavlovic 18′)
Wollongong Wolves 4 (Madden 52′, James 57′, Scott 72′, 85′)
Saturday, 29 June 2019
Popondetta Park, Emerton
Referee: S Lucas
Assistant Referees: S Ho, E Kocbek
Fourth Official: L Cole
Mt Druitt Town Rangers: 24. Carlos Saliadarre, 4. Solomon-Johnn Monahan-Vaiika, 5. Jake Mamone (15. Cooper Coskerie 90′), 6. Blake Thompson, 10. Fabricio Fernandez, 11. Toufic Alameddine, 12. Nicholas Trimble, 13. Lord Darkoh, 18. Jacob Espositio, 19. John Roberts (9. Alex Boyadjian 85′), 28 Mirjan Pavlovic (17. Jordan Gomez 95′).
Substitutes not used: 8. Alvin Singh, 25. Mathew Nikolovski,
Yellow cards: Thompson 72′, 76, Esposito 74′
Red cards: Thompson
Wollongong Wolves: 1. Justin Pasfield, 2. Taylor McDonald, 4. Nikola Djordjevic , 7. Christopher Price, 9. Thomas James, 11. Takeru Okada, 14. Harry Callahan (3. Darcy Madden 45′), 15 Nick Littler, 16. Guy Knight (8. Bul Juach 82′), 17. James Stojcevski (Ben Tosi 77′), 24. Lachlan Scott
Substitutes not used: 12. Luke Kairies, 23. Jordan Nikolovski
Yellow Cards: Callahan 18′, Knight 69′
Player Ratings have now been hidden due to the second half of the season commencing.