Mt Druitt Town Rangers have narrowly missed out on a place in the National Premier Leagues NSW Mens finals series despite a brilliant 2-1 upset win against APIA Leichhardt at Popondetta Park on Sunday.
The Rangers needed victory and for Sydney United and Sydney Olympic to lose if they were to pull off a miracle top five finish, and while Aidan Desmond’s side did their part the other half of the equation didn’t.
Toufic Alamedddine gave Mt Druitt the early lead before Chris Payne equalised for the APIA with his 21st strike of the season.
However, the home side would bounce back as Mirjan Pavlovic sealed the deal for Mt Druitt in the second half with a clever goal.
It was a frustrating defeat for APIA ahead of the playoffs but with nothing riding on the final round tie coach John Calleja will scratch the result and hopes his team regroups before their match with Blacktown City next week.
With a possible finals spot on the line, Mt Druitt exploded out of the blocks and took the lead inside the opening ten minutes.
A pass from Fabricio Fernandez found Toufic Alameddine in the box and his clinical diagonal finish was too much for goalkeeper Ivan Necevski to handle giving Mt Druitt a 1-0 lead.
In the 18th minute a Fernandez free-kick caused some consternation in the box for the APIA Leichhardt defence but eventually the ball fell onto the upper side of the crossbar and over with troubling the ‘keeper.
Mt Druitt should have made it two in the 25th minute when Alameddine fed the ball in for Josh Gould but his header was cleared off the line by the APIA defence.
APIA pounced on the very next play as they raced up field to equalise much to the dismay of the home support.
Corey Biczo played a delightful ball from the right across to an unmarked Chris Payne who had no trouble slotting home as Mt Druitt’s defence were left waiting for an offside call which would never arrive.
Mirjan Pavlovic, who has made a real difference to the Mt Druitt team since his transfer mid-season from Marconi, tried his luck in the 31st minute with a great shot from the left but Necevski made a wonderful save anticipating a galloping Fernandez.
Shortly afterwards APIA Leichhardt almost scored when Sammy McIllhatton in the middle fed the ball wide to Payne who fluffed his chance and the ball went wide.
Just prior to the break the Alex Boyadjian with a header from close range almost found the back of the net but Themba Muata-Marlow was there to clear the danger for the Tigers.
Mt Druitt though did re-gain the lead in the second half in the 57th minute with a delightful goal when Cooper Coskerie fed the ball to Pavlovic who made no mistake from close range and chipped an out-coming Necevski.
In the 76th minute there was a great chance for Mt Druitt when a brilliant cross by John Roberts on the right found Fernandez in the middle, but his great diving header was very well saved by Necevski who managed to turn the ball around the post for a corner.
In the 83rd minute Fernandez had the ball in the back of the net but the offside flag was raised and Mt Druitt didn’t get their third despite the celebrations from the home supporters until they realised that the goal wouldn’t stand.
Mt Druitt desperately clung onto win in the final seconds but as news filtered in from other results the victory proved to be a bittersweet end to the season.
Rangers coach Aidan Desmond praised his players for a brilliant win but admitted it was tough miss out on a top five finish by such a small margin.
“We came into today’s game knowing we had to win against one of the leagues best teams to even stand a chance and the team did exactly that,” Desmond said.
“APIA didn’t finish in the top two for any old reason, they are a very good team and we played a great game to finish our season with a win against them.”
“At the start of the season we had set out to play in the finals so to fall two points short is difficult. However, I am happy on the whole with our first year after promotion and I much rather we finish where we did than be battling for survival.”
Mt DRUITT TOWN RANGERS: 2 (Alameddine 10’, Pavlovic 57’)
APIA LEICHHARDT TIGERS: 1 (Payne 26’)
Sunday, 11th August 2019
Popondetta Park, Emerson
Referee: Katie Patterson
Assistant Referees: J. Bell, P.Teleki
Fourth Official: C. Wright
MT DRUITT TOWN RANGERS: 1.Carlos Saliadarre, 3.Josh Gould, 4. S.J. Monahan-Vaika, 5.Jake Mammone 6.Blake Thompson, 9.Alex Boyadjian (19.John Roberts 55’), 10.Fabricio Fernandez, 11.Toufic Alameddine, 13.Lord Darkoh, 15.Cooper Coskerie (18.Jacob Esposito 72’), 27.Mirjan Pavlovic (12.Nicholas Trimble 88’).
Substitutes not used: 7.Luke Clifford, 17.Jordan Gomez.
Yellow Cards: Thompson 33’, Alameddine 87’
Red Card: Nil
APIA LEICHHARDT TIGERS: 1.Ivan Necevski, 3.Paul Galimi, 6.Chris Payne, 7.Tynan Diaz, 8.Corey Biczo, 10.Franco Parisi, 12.Sammy McIllhatton, 14.Lachlan Hughes (18.Adrian Ucchino 82’), 15. Themba Muata-Marlow (17.Sam Gulisano 73’), 16.Sean Symons (19.Dom Nasrabadi 82’), 21. Michael Kouta.
Substitutes not used: 22.Luke Turnbull
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Card: Nil
Player Ratings have now been hidden due to the second half of the season commencing.
By National Prmier Leagues NSW Men’s reporter Joe Russo