Manly United and Sydney FC were forced to settle for a share of the spoils following a tense 1-1 stalemate at Cromer Park on Sunday afternoon.
National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s football returned to Cromer Park with a bang, with both sides scoring in the 15th and 16th minutes respectively.
The opener arrived courtesy of an impressive Sam Gallagher header, which nestled in the far corner of Thomas Hewerd-Bell’s net.
Sydney FC then fired back instantly, as Hamish Lamberton left the Manly backline in his wake, weaving his way through on goal before poking the ball through the outstretched legs of Dylan Mitchell.
Despite the game initially shaping to be a goal-fest, the frequency of opportunities created by both sides progressively declined as the contest endured.
Sydney grew to dominate the latter stages of the first half, culminating in Lamberton striking the crossbar with a well-timed rocket in additional time.
Manly then took the game to their youthful opponents in the second half, however ultimately failed to gather a clinical touch in the final third.
A tough afternoon for both sides saw the Baby Sky Blues head home content with a point that prolongs their unbeaten start to the campaign, while Manly were offered plenty of positive snapshots as they carry on their search for a maiden victory.
The contest sprung to life from the opening whistle, as Jordan Swibel forged a sight on goal within 15 seconds, however his low shot was comfortably saved by Dylan Mitchell.
Both teams then traded blows during a frenetic opening quarter of an hour, with Scott Balderson blazing over the bar after five minutes, before Jerry Skotadis came within inches of opening the scoring after nine.
The Sky Blues midfielder lost his marker to be free on the end of Marco Tilio’s well-delivered corner, however directed his volley narrowly wide of the mark.
It was another set-piece, this time up the other end on 15 minutes, that would bear the match’s opening goal.
Scott Balderson swung in a powerful cross which was met well by Sam Gallagher, who found the back of the net with a precise flicked header which grazed the inside of the back post.
The defender’s second goal of the season injected life into a healthy Northern Beaches crowd, however unfortunately for them, Sydney’s travelling contingent would not have to wait long for parity to be restored.
Seconds after the restart, Skotadis won the ball high up the field and played it into the feet of Hamish Lamberton via a neat touch from Jordan Swibel.
Last year’s National Premier League NSW Men’s Under 20’s Golden Boot winner seemed to have only thing on his mind as he set off on a spellbinding run, beating a handful of Manly defenders before poking home the equaliser.
The situation so almost improved even more for the Sky Blues after 39 minutes, as they were awarded an indirect free kick in the area by referee Kurt Ams.
However Marco Tilio could not steer his close-range strike through a crowded penalty area, allowing for the Cromer faithful to breathe a collective sigh of relief.
The visitors came even closer to edging in front with one of the final kicks of the first period, as Lamberton forged a yard of space on the edge of the area and released a venomous strike that was cruelly denied by the woodwork.
Sydney FC maintained their momentum in the early stages of the second half, and if it was not for a stunning fingertips save by Dylan Mitchell to deny Jordan Swibel’s close-range header, they would have taken the lead after 52 minutes.
Manly United then worked their way back into proceedings, eventually garnering a stranglehold of possession and field position.
Their best chances arrived aerially through Jamie Glover and Adam Parkhouse in the 58th and 65th minutes respectively, however a stubborn Sky Blue defensive unit proved to be up to the task time and time again.
The hosts believed they should have been granted a 94th minute spot kick after a collision between substitute Charles Mendy and Thomas Hewerd-Bell, however their vocal appeals were waved away by Kurt Ams, ensuring the points would be shared.
Manly United’s assistant coach Dylan Macallister offered a positive outlook on the draw:
“We were looking for a reaction from our players today after losing round one,” Manly’s former striker revealed.
“I thought the effort was fantastic today from the players.
“In the front third we were very dangerous- we must have had 15 to 20 crosses throughout the game.
“We probably needed more bodies in the box at times.
“We had a few players today coming back from injuries, we are just going to get fitter and fitter as a squad.
“The majority of our squad is playing really good football the way we want them to.
“If we could have a bit more of an impact from our players coming off the bench, that will be the final piece we need to start running over teams like we did last year.
“We’ll take a point in the end, almost could have nicked it with a penalty, but were a little bit unlucky.
“We’re still happy overall.”
Similarly, Sydney boss Jimmy Van Weeren extracted many promising signs from his side’s impressive start to the season:
“It was pleasing to see that the boys could manage the game in the back end there against what is a really strong opposition,” he said.
“The (four) points are good, but are only one thing. It is nice to see some of these young players really stepping up in a quality competition.
“I think this is only the start of the project with some of these boys, and they are still quite young.
“It is exciting to think what they are potentially capable of throughout this season.”
Van Weeren’s Baby Sky Blues will be confident they can remain undefeated after they host Marconi Stallions next Saturday, whilst Manly United will face another team in search of a maiden victory in the form of Mt. Druitt Town Rangers in Round 3 National Premier League’s NSW men’s action.
Manly United FC 1 (Sam Gallagher 15’)
Sydney FC 1 (Hamish Lamberton 16’)
Sunday 17th March, 2019
Cromer Park, Dee Why
Referee: Kurt Ams
Assistant Referees: Lance Greenshields and Jarrod Park
Fourth Official: S. Andrews
Manly United FC: 1. Dylan Mitchell, 2. Kieren Paull, 4. Travis Oughtred, 5. Sam Gallagher, 6. Joseph Fox (3. Jamie Lobb 80’), 8. Dom Ferguson, 10. Brendan Cholakian, 11. Adam Parkhouse (12. Charles Mendy 71’), 13. Scott Balderson (14. Dejan Pandurevic 58’), 17. Lewis Miccio, 22. Jamie Glover
Substitutes Not Used: 20. Sam Benton, 32. Mackenzie Syron
Yellow Cards: Scott Balderson 24’, Kieren Paull 38’
Red Cards: Nil
Sydney FC: 1. Thomas Heward-Belle, 3. Ben Van Meurs, 4. Liam Mcging, 5. Patrick Scibilio, 6. Harry Van Der Saag, 7 Jerry Skotadis, 8. Joel King, 9. Hamish Lamberton (12. Giuseppe Tilio 62’), 10 Marco Tilio, 13. Jordan Swibel (2. Daniel Blachura 87’), 18. Benjamin Koop (24. Jake Hollman 73’)
Substitutes Not Used: 40. David Malishev, 15. Ryan Teague
Yellow Cards: Hamish Lamberton 53’, Guiseppe Tilio 73’, Harry Van Der Saag 90’
Red Cards: Nil
3 – Sam Gallagher (MU)
2 – Hamish Lamberton (SFC)
1 – Dom Ferguson (MU)
– By NPL NSW Reporter Chris Curulli (Twitter handle @ChrisCurulli)