A towering Josh Symons header has helped APIA Leichhardt to their first win of the 2021 NPL NSW Men’s season in a hard-fought 1-0 victory against Sutherland Sharks at Lambert Park on Wednesday night that’s lifted the Inner West club off the foot of the ladder.
It was a dogged performance from APIA as they held on late to notch a vital and precious three points as they begin their fight to climb off the bottom of the competition ladder under new coach Paul Dee in their quest for a finals spot.
Josh Symons was in inspired form for the home side making numerous key stops in central defence before nodding home the winner courtesy of a great corner and cross from brother Sean, eight minutes from time.
Sutherland could’ve snatched the win in the dying seconds, but veteran shot stopper Ivan Necevski yet again pulled off back to back saves to ensure his side clung on for the win.
The match began bogged down in midfield, with neither team truly taking the early advantage.
It wasn’t until mid-way through the first half for the first real chance when James Andrew used his blistering speed to get in behind the APIA defence but could only blast his shot high and wide.
Josh Symons put his body on the line to deny a rasping strike from the Sharks as APIA defence held strong against the visitors.
APIA fans were up on their toes in the dying seconds of the first half when Adrian Uchhino unleashed a blistering volley from the edge of the penalty area, but his effort sailed wide of the target.
The two sides remained scoreless at the break after a largely uneventful opening stanza.
After the restart, Peter Simonoski was brought on and had an immediate impact. Promising young APIA defender Gian Fiorese threw his body in between the ball and the outstretched foot of the Sharks frontman to intercept the cross.
APIA was starting to find their way and had Sutherland on the back foot.
Harry Callahan forced a diving save from Anthony Bouzanis after cutting in from the left-wing.
APIA thought they had found the breakthrough in the 77th minute when former Shark Blake Powell tapped home at the far post – having thought he broke his own duck for scoring his first goal for the APIA his celebrations were muted as the assistant referee raised her flag for offside.
The home side would not give up and only moments later took the lead courtesy of a towering Josh Symons header.
APIA’s central defender flew above the Sutherland defence to connect with brother Sean’s inswinging corner and fire past the goalkeeper’s outstretched arms.
The celebrations that followed were pure joy and elation as the team fought tooth and nail in pushing hard for their first victory of their 2021 campaign.
Sutherland pushed forward, desperate for an equaliser and nearly had it if it wasn’t for two incredible back to back saves from Necevski in the dying seconds.
It was pure relief for the home side at the final whistle as they clung on for their first win of the season.
New APIA boss Paul Dee was jubilant after the match and celebrated his first official win since taking over as head coach.
“I’ve been out of the game a while, so it was nice to get the result.
“You never lose the desire to fight and win in tough matches like this one, so it was a bit special for me,” Dee said.
“It was a great showing from the playing group tonight, and their performance should be commended.
“This team has gone through a lot, so a win like this is hopefully the start of more positive results.”
Sharks coach Nick Dimovski was proud of his players’ efforts but felt they should’ve taken at least a point away from the contest.
“The team gave a huge performance, but it just wasn’t to be our night,” Dimovski said
“I’m really proud to be the coach of this Sutherland Sharks team, especially when they dig in during tough matches like this.
“I felt a draw would’ve been a fair result, but it wasn’t to be. It is a long season, so while it is disappointing to lose, there is still a long way to go.”
APIA travel to Rockdale (3pm) on Easter Sunday and are hoping that they can make it two from two following tonight’s victory while the Sharks have a tighter turn around when they host Blacktown City on Easter Saturday at Seymour Shaw (3:30pm).
APIA Leichhardt 1 (J Symons 82’)
Sutherland Sharks 0
Wednesday, March 31 2021
Lambert Park, Leichhardt.
Referee: T Danaskos
Assistant Referees: N Wotton & A Morris
Fourth Official: L Lavigne
APIA Leichhardt Tigers: 1. Ivan Necevski, 2. William Mutch, 4. Josh Symons, 6. Harry Callahan (7. Tynan Diaz 87’), 8. Corey Biczo (10. Franco Parisi 65’), 9. Blake Powell, 11. Mathieu Cordier 16.Sean Symons, 18. Adrian Ucchino 20, Sam McIllhatton, 23. Gian Fiorese
Substitutes not used: 22. Luke Turnbull, 5. Nicholas Azzone,21. Michael Kouta, 26. Vincent Fedele
Yellow Cards: McIllhatton 58’, Powell 74’
Sutherland Sharks: 1. Anthony Bouzanis, 3. Gabriel Contigiani (12. Harry Sutherland 5’ (25. Alex Masciovecchio. 64’)), 4. Brendan Hooper, 5. Nic Petrillo, 6. Patrick O’Shea, 8.Oliver Green 13. (Charlie Jones 75’), 9. Jeremy Cox, 10. Lachlan Everett, 17. James Andrew, 88. Christopher McStay, 99. Jonathan Grozdanovski 7. (Peter Simonoski 45’)
Substitutes not used: 16. Gerald Roebuck, Patrick Scibillio, 25. Alex Masciovecchio.
3 – Josh Symons (AL)
2 – Sam McIllhatton (AL)
1 – Ivan Necevski (AL)