Mt Druitt Town Rangers and Rockdale Ilinden FC were forced to share the points in a pulsating 1-1 draw on Friday night at Popondetta Park as the home side showed yet again they’ve been a different team in the second half of the 2022 season.
Rockdale Ilinden FC got off to the perfect start when Alex Urosevski fired home his 15th goal of the campaign in the 25th minute. They huffed and puffed but were unable to blow away the Rangers.
The Rangers equalised in the second half through a Solomon-John Monahan-Vaiika header, but the hosts had several chances from Bul Jauch and Cooper Coskerie to steal the points at the death but couldn’t manage to convert.
On a crisp night at Popondetta Park, Rockdale Ilinden started on the front foot with sharpshooter Alec Urosevski registered a shot within the first two minutes of the contest.
The Rangers tried to respond in the 13th minute through their own marksman as Jack Stewart cushioned a ball through for Olayinka Sunmola who couldn’t fashion a shot.
Rockdale Ilinden kept pushing for the opener as Peter Kekeris curled a cross right onto the head of defender Daniel Petkovski who craned his effort over.
The visitors did find the opener in the 25th minute.
The move was started by Tomoki Wada and Kekeris before it fell to the lethal boot of Urosevski to slam home.
Mt Druitt Town tried to fashion a response on the half hour mark again through Stewart.
He combined well with John Roberts to create space but Stewart’s shot whistled wide.
The final chance of the half fell again to the Rangers in the 37th minute.
Stewart snatched the ball well before he cannoned an effort right at Rockdale custodian David Bradasevic for a corner.
Coming out of the break, Rockdale Ilinden’s Urosevski had a pair of chances to double the visitor’s delight in the 54th minute.
He cut inside before being blocked then had the rebound meet a similar fate and the ball was swept away.
The Rangers looked to hit back and equalise in the 56th minute from a short-corner routine.
The cross was sent to the head of Solomon-John Monahan-Vaiika who nodded wide.
He didn’t make the same mistake twice. From a wide free-kick, Fumoto Kamada swung it right onto Monahan-Vaiika’s head to nod home the equaliser in the 61st minute.
Both sides traded shots as the game headed into the final 20 minutes.
Stewart was the key man again for the Rangers who drove wide, then substitute Bai Antoniou shot straight for Rockdale.
The Rangers were surging home with a wet sail.
Kamada and Stewart combined well, which created space for John Roberts to slice wide.
Next, Rockdale Ilinden had their keeper Bradasevic to thank for keeping the game at 1-1.
The experienced shot stopper denied Mt Druitt Town’s Cooper Coskerie twice in quick succession.
Everything was flowing for the Rangers headed into the final ten minutes.
Roberts snatched the ball in midfield and threaded it through to substitute Bul Juach who shot wide.
Rockdale Ilinden tried to find a response when the ball fell to Antoniou inside the box, but the striker put his effort right at Rangers keeper Robert Fanella.
Nicola Kuleski almost saw his name in lights late on as he struck one with venom that needed to be blocked by Rangers Fanella then the follow up by Wada was denied by a good challenge.
It was a case of a missed opportunity for Steve Zoric and his troops as the draw has kept the club just out of the finals series hunt with six matches remaining.
Speaking post-match Mt Druitt Town Rangers coach Stewart Montgomery was happy with his sides effort and hope their run of form would earn them some respect.
“The first half, [Alec] Urosevski scored a goal only someone in form takes,” Montgomery said.
“The rest of the half we dominated and probably should’ve had a few goals.
“Our half-time talk was positive and reminded the boys to stay on the front foot.”
“We knew we would get one so it was about taking chances.
“I think people need to recognise we’re in form getting four results from our five games thus far.
“We want teams to think of us as a tough game which has taken a while but I’m happy with the boys.”
For Rockdale Ilinden FC coach Steve Zoric, he was happy with the performance from his side despite the game becoming one of transitions in the second half.
“It was a mixed bag tonight,” he explained.
“In parts we controlled the game when we held possession and slowed the game down.
“When it became a game of transitions and trying to score off every attack, it suited them more.
“I think we deserved the lead at half-time, second half we had some unluckiness in front of goal and conceded a sloppy goal from a set-piece.
“We got to work on that but we’ve turned a corner after our slump earlier this year.
“There are some positive signs for the side with a short turnaround.
“Our keeper [David] Bradasevic pulled off some fantastic saves which he does every week.”
Mt Druitt Town Rangers 1 (Monahan-Vaiika ‘61)
Rockdale Ilinden FC 1 (Urosevski ‘25)
Friday 17th June 2022
Popondetta Park, Mt Druitt
Referee: Sam Kelly
Assistant Referees: Joon Park and Patrick Teleki
Fourth Official: Joe Crawford
Mt Druitt Town Rangers: 2. Solomon-John Monahan-Vaiika, 7. Jack Stewart, 8. Jason Perez, 9. John Roberts, 11. Fumoto Kamada (15. Brayden Burr ‘90+3), 17. Cooper Coskerie, 18. Olayinka Sunmola (19. Bul Juach ‘65), 20. Robert Fanella, 21. Tarek Elrich, 25. Mohommed Sabbouh (22. Rhett Desilva ‘65), 26. Rocco Fragale
Substitutes Not Used: 23. Leonard Abdo, 30. Jerome Narayan, 41. Ivan Sunjic
Yellow Cards: Fragale, Monahan-Vaiika
Red Cards: Nil
Rockdale Ilinden FC: 1. David Bradasevic, 2. Daniel Petkovski, 4. Mitchell Stamatellis, 5. William Mutch, 6. Daniel Araujo (16. Mohamed Ahmed ‘79), 7. Alec Urosevski, 10. Tomoki Wada, 11. Peter Kekeris (9. Bai Antoniou ‘64), 15. Jamie Percevski, 23. Jaden Casella (25. Alex Masciovecchio ‘71), 88. Christopher McStay (8. Nicola Kuleski ‘71)
Substitutes Not Used: 14. Brayden Sorge, 31. Matthew Marrum
Yellow Cards: McStay
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Reporter Justin Davies (@JustDavies90)