A last-gasp header from young gun Jordan Devries snatched all three points for Manly United in a hotly-contested 2-1 victory over fellow finals aspirants APIA Leichhardt at Cromer Park on Friday night.
The young attacker’s late heroics ensured Paul Dee’s return to Cromer Park was not a positive one and prevented APIA from climbing into the top five for the first time this season.
In a tit-for-tat battle, the sides were level at the interval as Blake Powell’s fourth goal of the season cancelled out Luca Kmet’s opener.
The away side started the brighter, creating the first chance of the game nine minutes in through the returning Josh Symons.
Manly then began to work their way into the game and less than 23 minutes in broke the deadlock off the back of a deadly counter-attack.
Adam Griffiths’ side broke with purpose as Seiya Kambayashi played in Richie Cardozo, who squared his touch for Kmet to slam home his second goal of the season into the bottom corner.
There was an extended stoppage of play mid-way through the first half as in-form Manly goalkeeper Sam Benton suffered a knee injury.
It was the away side who responded to the stoppage in style, as Symons lofted a precise long ball into the path of Powell, who could poke home a cool finish past substitute shot-stopper Jacob Madden.
Manly looked dangerous early in the second half as chances for Kmet and Kambayashi went begging.
On the hour mark James Georgaklis so nearly registered his side’s second with a thunderous effort from range, but it was spectacularly palmed away by Ivan Necevski.
Moments later, APIA substitute Corey Biczo so nearly scored his second against Manly this season, flashing a shot across the face of goal.
He went close again with a curled effort in the 76th minute, but to APIA’s dismay, it floated inches past the wrong side of the post.
With both sides setting off in fierce pursuit in search of a winner, the stage was set for late drama.
It would be Manly’s youngster Devries – who famously broke onto the NPL NSW scene with a late winner on debut during Paul Dee’s final match in charge of Manly last year – who would replicate the dose to this time break the hearts of his former mentor’s side.
It was a result of an unnecessary foul that APIA substitute Corey Gameiro gave away in what was a dangerous position for the hosts to hit up a winner.
The goal came off a string of Kambayashi set pieces, with the final effort seeing Devries glance home a threatening ball into the area to send Cromer Park into raptures.
The win saw Manly United momentarily leapfrog Rockdale Illinden FC into third spot on the ladder, and coach Adam Griffiths is eager for his side’s winning mentality to continue driving them forward.
“All in all, I felt that we deserved it,” he said.
“It’s a positive win, I ask the boys to change their mentality and have a winning mentality where they push for the number one spot, to focus on what is ahead not behind.
“It was a good performance today to keep proving to people that we are a decent team.”
APIA boss Paul Dee was left to reflect on what could have been in what was a ‘strange’ return to Cromer Park.
“Every time you concede in the last minute of a game it’s always going to be disappointing,” he said.
“It was a hard-fought game, both teams were looking for the win which was the good part about it.
“We gave away a few silly free kicks in the last few minutes and then invited a couple of dangerous opportunities.
“It did feel strange (returning to Cromer). But I have a lot of good memories here, there’s a lot of good people, the team’s playing well this season so I’m happy for them.”
As the race for the coveted top five heats up, next week sees Manly United travel to face Sydney FC while APIA return to Leichhardt to host Rockdale.
Prior to these fixtures Manly do have a crucial FFA Cup Round 7 match to attend to as they face Sydney Olympic at Cromer Park next Wednesday with kick off set for 7:30pm.
Manly United FC: 2 (Kmet 23’, Devries 92’)
APIA Leichhardt: 1 (Powell 40’)
Friday, 11 June 2021
Cromer Park, Dee Why
Referee: Adrian Arndt
Assistant Referees: Hugh Fenton-White, Maddie Allum
Fourth official: Ivica Covic
Manly United FC: 19. Sam Benton (1. Jacob Madden 35’), 2. Kieren Paull, 15. Jesse Piriz, 4. Jimmy Oates, 16. Seiya Kambayashi, 24. Finn Ashton, 3. James Georgaklis, 31. Ben Gibson (7. Jack Fulton 61’), 12. Luca Kmet, 10. Richie Cardozo (13. Scott Balderson 90’), 14. Dejan Pandurevic (23. Jordan Devries 61’)
Substitutes not used: 20. Alen Aganovic, 18. Lucas Rainbird
Yellow cards: Oates 18’, Ashton 70’
Red cards: Nil
APIA Leichhardt: 1. Ivan Necevski, 2. William Mutch, 6. Harry Callahan (10. Franco Parisi 70’), 7. Tynan Diaz, 9. Blake Powell, 11. Mattieu Cordier, 18. Adrian Ucchino (27. Corey Gameiro 90’), 19. Peter Kekeris (8. Corey Biczo 71’), 20. Sam Mcillhatton, 21. Michael Kouta
Unused subs: 5. Nicholas Azzone, 22. Luke Turnbull, 23. Gian Fiorese, 26. Vincent Fedele
Yellow cards: Mutch 52’, Biczo 88’, Kouta 90’
Red cards: Nil
– By Football NSW reporter and commentator Chris Curulli (Twitter handle @ChrisCurulli)