Three second half goals have helped Mt Druitt Town Rangers end the finals hopes of the Sutherland Sharks with a 4-2 win at Seymour Shaw Park on Saturday evening.
Both the Sharks and Rangers needed all three points to keep their slim finals hopes alive but in the end it was an inspired display from the visitors which got the job done.
Cooper Coskerie got Mt Druitt off to a 1-0 lead but The Sharks fired back just after the interval to level proceedings courtesy of a Bai Antoniou strike.
The visitors fired back in emphatic form with a flurry of goals from Alex Boyadjian, John Roberts and Toufic Alameddine to take a commanding lead at 4-1 with less than 15 minutes to play.
A Raul Beneit penalty in the 76th minute hope cut the deficit for the home side but it wasn’t to be their night as Mt Druitt collected the points after Aidan Desmond’s men suffered a heartbreaking penalty shootout FFA Cup Round of 32 loss to Manly United earlier in the week.
With both sides missing crucial players through injury it was a tense opening with neither able to gain the ascendency.
Carlos Saliadarre was called into action in the 8th minute to deny Jeremy Cox after he was put through on goal.
A lofted ball found Fabricio Fernandez but he was unable to lob the ‘keeper under close attention from the Sutherland defence.
A Beneit corner in the 23rd minute found Harry Sutherland at the back stick and again the visiting ‘keeper was swiftly down at his left-hand post to push the header away.
Toufic Alameddine sent in a teasing cross from the left enabling Cooper Coskerie to open the scoring with a shot that squirmed under the body of the diving Anthony Bouzanis in the 34th minute to give Mt Druitt the advantage. After mounting continuous pressure on the Sutherland back-line they finally found the telling ball.
It was a slender lead they would take to the break but it left the Sharks with it all to do in the second period.
And do it they did inside a minute of the restart when Charles Lokolingoy left Blake Thompson on his backside and fired in a shot that Saliadarre couldn’t hold allowing Bai Antoniou to steal to pick up the scraps and level the scores. It was a sucker punch the visitors could ill afford.
Sutherland had a spring in their step and upped the ante making an uncomfortable period for the Rangers to endure which was managed partly through grit and determination and partly desperation.
They clung on and hitting on the break allowed Boyadjian to give the visitors the lead once again in the 54th minute when firing in across the ‘keeper. It was against the run of play but an exceptionally well worked counter-attack.
Alameddine came narrowly close to extending the lead when hitting the upright before John Roberts, picking up the loose ball, fortuitously added Mt Druitt’s third in the 57th minute to completely turn the game on it’s head. It was now do or die for the home side.
Antoniou forced a save out of Saliadarre but Lockolingoy was offside on the follow-up and the Rangers’ breathed again.
Cox was again put through one-on-one with the ‘keeper who proved once more to be an unyielding force at the back as the home side threw everything forward in a last ditch attempt to salvage something from the match.
But Alameddine ended any hopes of a comeback in the 76th minute when cutting in from the left to send a curling shot into the back of the net to cap off a great performance on the night and secure the points for Mt Druitt.
Sutherland were the recipient of a somewhat innocuous penalty in the 78th minute that was dutifully tucked away by Beneit to reduce the deficit but it remained a forlorn hope and consolation.
Antoniou could have made it an interesting final few minutes when slipping past his marker to power into the box before spinning to create space only to sky the effort over the crossbar.
It was a spirited, if ultimately fruitless, second-half performance from Sutherland but the Rangers were not to be denied at the final whistle and were worthy winners.
Mt Druitt coach Aidan Desmond praised the resilience of his players to secure victory after a busy week which included an FFA Cup match.
“I’m delighted with the result tonight especially after the midweek FFA Cup game that went to extra-time,” he said.
“We knew Sutherland would come at us hard after the break and they pulled it back immediately and we showed great character in the way we went about our business.
“We are now back at home, on the grass, for our remaining fixtures and we’ll battle on until the end and see what happens.”
A disappointed Terry Palapanis felt his side paid the price for their first half performance.
“We were slow to pick up our pace and didn’t defend to the best of our ability,” he said.
“What can I say? It’s not the way we wanted to sign off our last home match of the season but credit Mt Druitt, they deserved their win.”
An impeccable minutes silence was dutifully observed prior to kick-off for Sharks’ midfield stalwart of yesteryear, Keith Schumann, who passed away this week.
Sutherland Sharks 2 (Antoniou 46’, Beneit 78’p)
Mt Druitt Town Rangers 4 (Coskerie 34’, Boyadjian 54’, Roberts 57’, Alameddine 76’)
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Saturday 27th July 2019
Referee: Roberto Mattei
Asst.Ref: Sarah Ho & Joon Park
4th Official: Matt Howarth
Sutherland Sharks: 1.Anthony Bouzanis, 2.Quentin Cheng, 4.Patrick O’Shea, 7.Bai Antoniou, 8.Mateo Poljak (32.Alexander Lopez 80’), 9.Jeremy Cox (44.Jermey McGowan 90’, 10.Raul Beneit, 14.Charles Lokolingoy, 19.Harry Sutherland, 21.Tarik Ercan, 25.Brodie Clarkson (30.Thomas Aquilina 65’)
Subs not used: 18.Mitchell Evans, 29.Jarrad Wiley,
Yellow Cards: Cheng 42’
Mt Druitt Town Rangers: 1.Carlos Saliadarre, 3.Joshua Gould, 5.Jake Mammone (8.Alvin Singh 87’), 6.Blake Thompson, 9.Alex Boyadjian (18.Jacob Esposito 74’), 10.Fabricio Fernandez, 11.Toufic Alameddine, 13.Lord Darkoh, 17Ishmail Hares, 19.John Roberts
Subs not used: 7.Luke Clifford, 12Aaron Avery, 22.Brendan Allen
Yellow Cards: Darkoh 26’, Boyadjian 44’, Roberts 79’
Player Ratings have now been hidden due to the second half of the season commencing.
By National Premier Leagues NSW Reporter Micky Brock