Fresh from securing a spot into the Round of 16 of the Australia Cup, Mt Druitt Town Rangers missed a golden opportunity to ease their relegation battle following a 1-1 draw against a ten-man Sutherland Sharks outfit at Seymour Shaw on Tuesday evening further adding pressure to their survival in NSW’s top tier Men’s competition.
The round 27 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s clash saw Jesse Photi put the hosts in front in the first-half before Anthony Frangie equalised in the 73rd minute. Soon after his goal, the Sharks were reduced to ten-men following Nathan Grimaldi’s send off for two cautions, but the hosts hung on to secure the point much to the dismay of Stewart Montgomery’s men.
The visitors were full of running in the opening stages, chasing everything down in a high tempo approach to the match however, after a crafty corner routine in the third minute, Jordan Roberts curled one toward the top corner that Dylan Niski did extremely well to reach and tip around the post to deny the home side. Photi then headed tamely goalward shortly after that was an easy gather as Panny Nikas’ troops pushed early for a goal to ease the tension.
Sutherland were certainly having the better possession but rarely worked Niski until Roberts forced the gloveman into a near post save with no Sharks’ player able to capitalise on the rebound. The save may have caused an issue as Niski required a few moments of treatment on the pitch immediately after but was able to continue.
Alex Brown should have netted the first goal of the game after 29’ minutes when he fired wide with an open goal to aim at after terrific work down the left involving Chris Lindsay, who fed Fumoto Kamada and set off on a mazy run into the area to set the play up.
Sutherland were not to be denied soon after that chance and took the lead a minute later when Photi lashed the ball home in emphatic fashion to ease the home team’s nerves.
The Rangers responded quickly and forced the play but lacked the quality options in the final third and failed to make an impression. Mitch Stamatellis and Nathan Grimaldi impenetrable at the back as they have been all season were on song and did their bit in keeping Mt Druitt at bay.
Mt Druitt rang the changes in the second half bringing on Rhett De Silva and Cooper Coskerie for Shunta Nakamura and Anthony Gallo respectively.
It would have made little difference had Alex Brown’s long range effort slipped under the bar instead of grazing it and skimming over before Anthony Frangie had a couple of chances straight after. The first a free-kick he fired into the wall and the second deflected out for a corner in an impressive start to the second stanza.
More good work from Kamada on the left set up Photi who mistimed his connection inside the box but his blushes were spared when flagged offside. The match was really end to end and Frangie squandered another terrific chance for the visitors when heading over at the back stick.
Brodie Clarkson was set up by Photi but his curling effort skewed wide of the upright as the chances swung like a pendulum in a strongly contested battle.
Mt Druitt Rangers finally received their just deserts when Frangie found the net to level the score in the 73’ minute just as the game slowed with tiring legs.
Frangie was one of the only players that looked dangerous for the visitors. and after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, it could be said that Mt Druitt’s fortunes may have been different should they had the talented attacker’s services.
It worsened for Sutherland just moments later when Grimaldi received his second caution of the game, and was subsequently sent from the field leaving his side down to 10-men for the remaining quarter hour against a resurgent Rangers outfit.
From a dominant first-half display it was Sutherland who were forced to cling on for a point, albeit they still created chances, yet both sides had cause to believe they should have garnered all three.
Rangers Assistant Coach Andrew Montgomery rued a poor first-half as Mt Druitt faced an uphill battle in fighting off a relegation playoff match with a League One runner’s up club.
“We were very much second best in the first-half,” he said.
“We made a few minor adjustments after the break with the aim to block certain channels they were exploiting in the opening 45’ minutes knowing we could then get in behind them.
“We did that in the second-half but the result is pretty much the story of our season so far. We’ve played pretty good football for the most part but conceded some scruffy goals at times but to be fair we could have been down by a couple at the break and up by as many afterwards.
“We both squandered chances and that is why we are near the bottom of the league, it’s that simple. Both sides showed they are willing to play football, both were well organised but it just didn’t happen in the final third.
“Whenever you pick up a point you can count it and to come here on a Tuesday night after a big night against Canberra Croatia in the Cup and get one is something after such a big effort so we move on to Marconi this Sunday and see what that brings,” he concluded.
While Sharks coach Panny Nikas lamented that his side should have buried the match in the first-half if it weren’t for poor finishing.
“I think in the first-half we should have put the game to bed and we would have been a lot more comfortable in the second,” he commented.
“They changed a couple of things after the break and we failed to adapt and were not brave enough to play our football and it resulted in us being on the back foot and Rangers piling on a lot of pressure.
“In the scheme of things it’s a point to our advantage and maintains the 8-point lead we have over them but we always go into every game to win all three points as we showed by the way we finished the game tonight.
“A bit disappointed with that but that’s the way it goes in football at times.
“We produced one of our better performance’s tonight with some great moments but with no end product, and when you don’t take your opportunities you put yourself in these positions where you struggle in the second-half but there is a strong belief within the playing group and we keep playing our football and all we need to do now is be a bit more clinical in the final third and convert our chances.”
As it stands, Mt Druitt sit in 15th spot, three points behind the Western Sydney Wanderers with three matches remaining in what is sure to be a dramatic end to what has been an enthralling 30-week competition.
Sutherland Sharks 1 (Jesse Photi 30’)
Mt Druitt Town Rangers 1 (Anthony Frangie 73’)
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Tuesday, 8th August 2023
Referee: Craig Fisher
Assistants: Matty Staples and Hayden Michlmayr
Fourth: Amber Morris
Sutherland Sharks: 1. Marko Bulic, 2 Takahide Umebachi, 3.Jordan Roberts (7. Jay McGowan 72’), 4. Mitch Stamatellis, 5. Jesse Photi (9. Hamish Lamberton 79’), 6. Brodie Clarkson, 8. Alex Brown (25. Oliver Randazzo 65’), 10. Antonis Martis (21. Luke Sauer 65’), 11. Fumoto Kamada, 14. Chris Lindsay, 15. Nathan Grimaldi
Subs not used: 22. Jacob Cremen-Cowan, 36. Jacob Garner
Yellow Cards: Nathan Grimaldi 45+1’ & 76’
Red Cards: Nathan Grimaldi 86′
Mt Druitt Town Rangers: 1. Dylan Niski, 3. Nikola Djordjevic, 5. Jacob Esposito, 8. Henry Davies, 9. Shunta Nakamura (22. Rhett De Silva 46’), 10. Kotara Katsuta, 11. Jackson Bandiera, 14. Anthony Frangie, 15. Anthony Gallo (4. Cooper Croskerie 46’), 21. Tarek Elrich, 23. Daniel Dias (18. Abdul Faisal 79’)
Subs not used: 20. Vasos Kartambis, 41. Ivan Sunjic, 16. Bailey Jacobs
Yellow Cards: Nikola Djordjevic 20’, Daniel Dias 45’
3 – Anthony Frangie (MDTR)
2 – Fumoto Kamada (SS)
1 – Dylan Niski (MDTR)
By NPL NSW Men’s Reporter Micky Brock