Mt Druitt Town Rangers have kept their NPL NSW Men’s finals hopes alive with a narrow 1-0 win against Sydney Olympic at Belmore Sports Ground on Sunday.
A first half strike from Rangers’ prolific marksman and former Olympic ace Jack Stewart was all it took as the Rangers claimed a vital three points following on from securing a round of 32 spot in this year’s FFA Cup after defeating Rockdale Ilinden in midweek.
It was a frustrating performance from Olympic who never found their stride during the contest.
The win keeps Mt Druitt in contention for finals football closing the gap to the top five.
It was the visitors who made the early running, Olympic finding themselves under the pump and struggling to get out of their own half including an early punched clearance from keeper Nicholas Sorras.
Marc Warren, back in the Rangers’ starting eleven after serving a one-match ban for a red card in the aforementioned match, was pivotal in breaking up the Olympic attacks through a congested midfield.
Olympic kept their shape to weather the early storm with only a long-range effort from Portuguese star Fabio Ferriera to show for their endeavour.
A succession of corners for the home side had the Rangers defence scrambling to clear.
Ferriera broke down the right and centred for Mohamed Adam but the striker couldn’t connect cleanly in the greasy conditions and sent his shot wide of the goal.
Brendan Cholakian was no closer when sending a free-kick high over the bar shortly after.
Neither keeper had been tested midway through the opening half, both defences standing strong when called upon and neither side able to find the telling pass when required in a free flowing but tense encounter.
Ferriera again utilised trickery to create an opening for a cross that Cholakian headed into the waiting arms of Rangers’ ‘keeper Carlos Saliadarre.
It was talisman Stewart who opened the scoring for the visitors in the 38th minute after fashioning an opportunity and striking a low shot into the net.
It was the moment of individual brilliance the game was crying out for to spark it into life as the former Blues striker celebrated his ninth goal of the NPL NSW Men’s campaign.
Olympic doubled their efforts however, a buoyed Rangers side piled on the pressure and a Tarik Elrich header was gratefully grabbed by Sorras as another attack was broken up by a teetering Olympic defensive unit.
There was no addition before the interval that saw Rangers halfway to completing an impressive away victory and on the balance of play it was a deserved lead.
Kamada found space down the right flank and sent over a cross that Mitchell Smith could only cushion his header into the arms of Sorras as Rangers, not sitting on their laurels, looked to increase their lead and put the result beyond any doubt in a show of their intent.
Olympic’s recent ‘Super Sub’ hero Yu Hasegawa replaced Oliver Puflett as coach Ante Juric looked to change the point of attack and open up options for his Olympic side in the 53rd minute and it almost paid dividends but for a desperate last ditch tackle to deny Cholakian once more.
With renewed vigour the home side mounted a concerted flurry of attacks yet still were unable to pick the lock.
Cholakian found himself through one-on-one with Saliadarre but the giant frame of the gloveman proved unbeatable as he pulled off a point black save against the onrushing striker in what was Olympics best opportunity of the match.
Rangers were not to be denied the points leaving coach Stewart Montgomery overjoyed with his side’s commitment.
“It was a real team performance today in what a six-pointer for both sides,” he said.
“If we didn’t win today all our focus would be on the FFA and Waratah Cups but we are not just a cup side and it’s not what we are about.
“We dominated in the first-half and played some really good football. We can put a lot of that down to the experience of Marc Warren today. His communication and talking on the pitch was just what was needed.”
Sydney Olympic coach Ante Juric rued a frustrating outing for his side.
“Mt Druitt played well, particularly in defence. They bunkered in well today and we were poor to be honest,” Juric said.
“We didn’t hit our passes nor take the few opportunities we did create. We’re disappointed in a lot of ways with the result particularly in the way our attacks were breaking down before we reached the front third.
“We are there or there about in the top five and we still have a lot to play for this season with the FFA Cup so we are doing well in many ways and will look to fight hard until the end of the season.”
Sydney Olympic 0
Mt Druitt Town Rangers 1 (Stewart 38)
Belmore Sports Ground, Belmore
Sunday, 20th June 2021
Referee: Stephen Lucas
Assistant. Referees: Janush Adabjou & Amir Hosnani
Fourth Official: Mutjaba Ebrahimi
Sydney Olympic: 1.Nicholas SORRAS, 2.Tom WHITESIDE, 5.Michael GLASSOCK, 6.NiKola KULESKI, 8.Jason MADONIS, 9.Oliver PUFLETT (18.Yu HASEGAWA 53), 10.Brendan CHOLAKIAN, 22.Fabio FERREIRA, 23.Daniel DIAS (29.Deng CHAN 83’), 24.Christopher GLIGOR (19.Darcy BURGESS 71), 35.Mohamed ADAM (17.Marley PETERSON 83’)
Substitutes not used: 20.Luke KAIRIES, 27.Simun MILICEVIC
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
Mt Druitt Town Rangers: 1.Carlos SALIADARRE, 2.Solomon-Johnn MONOHAN-VAIIKA, 3.Travis OUGHTRED, 4.Mitchell SMITH, 6.Blake THOMPSON, 7.Jack STEWART (26.Olayinka SUNMOLA 86), 8.Jason PEREZ (10.Takumu TSUJIMURA 89), 14.Fumoto KAMADA (9.Toufic ALAMEDDINE 75), 17.Cooper COSKERIE, 21.Tarek ELRICH, 33.Marc WARREN
Substitutes not used: 13.Ahmed ALGARAWI, 18.Jared MACEROLA, 22.Jake MAMONE
Yellow Cards: Perez 79
Red Cards: Nil
By National Premier Leagues NSW reporter Micky Brock