A gallant Hakoah Sydney City East has wrapped up a horror season with an inspired fightback to claim a 1-1 draw with Blacktown City at Hensley Athletic field.
The hosts gave their fans one final moment to savour ahead of their relegation to NPL2 showing plenty of grit in a match which lacked many flashpoint.
The game went scoreless until the 81st minute when youngster Suleyman Bangura finished calmly to send Blacktown in front.
However, Oli Green rained on their parade, taking two points from Blacktown with a last gasp header past Tristan Prendergast in the 90th minute.
The windy conditions meant neither team could get comfortable on the ball. Pinball action descended on Hensley Athletic Field with the ball acting restless in midfield and the players even more so.
Blacktown City keeper Prendergast had a shocking start to the match, mistiming a back pass. Lucky for the keeper Harry Jones couldn’t convert inside the box and Blacktown could build in attack.
Adam Berry was dangerous for Blacktown, traversing across the front third of the pitch. The former Central Coast Mariners midfielder found plenty of action in the right channels and crossed into James Demetriou who should have made it 1-0.
Hakoah only netted 11 times during the entire NPL NSW Men’s season. Their lack of firepower in front of goal was evident with hardly any attacking fluidity.
The only player providing some sort of resemblance of a spark for Hakoah was Robert Ezekiel. The winger got past his man and worked the half yard to create some half chances for Sydney City East.
One low drive into the box almost caught Blacktown captain Matt Lewis unawares, who sliced the all across his own box.
The powerful Mason Versi was a thorn in the side of the Hakoah defence with his marauding runs spreading fear into the hosts backline.
Despite his flurry of touches and successful dribbles, Blacktown couldn’t manage to knick a goal in the first half and the two sides couldn’t be separated heading into the break.
Hakoah started the second half rather lively but still chances were rare.
It wasn’t long before Blacktown City were back on top and Daniel Collins almost connected with a header from Adam Berry’s set piece.
Yianni Spyrakis, in the absence of man-mountain Grant Lynch was superb in shepherding the live wire substitute Amaury Gauthier.
Ryan Norval, just like so many times this season, kept Hakoah from going down, pulling off a double save against Joey Gibbs. The piercing shot saw Norval dive down to deny to his right before Gibbs’ point blank follow up sunk right into the keepers’ gloves.
James Demetriou’s headers were off the par, getting another chance from a Berry delivery but losing power in the shot, sending the ball into the ground and wide.
An hour ticked over and still the match was scoreless. Blacktown the favourite to break the deadlock but it was going to take something special to break Hakoah hearts.
With 15 minutes to play, Daniel Collins put his body on the line as desperation set in for Sydney City East. Nelson Roberts broke free in the box but Collins’ big frame denied him his name in lights.
Blacktown City FC finally broke through on 81 minutes. Jackson Bandiera got passed his man and squared it up for the substitute Bangura who slid the ball under Norval.
It wasn’t all glory for Blacktown, who had three points snatched away from them. Oli Green latched onto Swadling’s cross and headed into the back of the net to salvage a point for Hakoah.
Goalscerer Green was happy with the performance but defended his side after Hakoah’s relegation to NPL2.
“Considering our last run of form it was good to at least get a draw,” said Green.
“The team has been relegated and we just wanted to come out here and play for our parents and our coaches who support us every week.
“We don’t come out here and chuck in the towel all the time, of course we play for the badge, we play for each other.”
Whilst Blacktown’s possession and chances dwarfed Hakoah’s, head coach Mark Crittenden doesn’t believe the last minute winner will dent his sides confidence heading into the semi-final.
“It didn’t mean a whole lot we knew we were going to finish third,” said Crittenden.
Hakoah Sydney City East: 1 (88’ Oliver Green)
Blacktown City FC: 1 (81’ Suleyman Bangura)
Sunday 11th August 2019
Hensley Athletic Field, Eastgardens
Referee: C. Fisher
Assistant Referees: R. Osborne, J. Adabjou
Fourth Official: P. Reynolds
HAKOAH SYDNEY CITY EAST: 1. Ryan Norval (gk), 2. Connor Shaddock (15. Predrag Bojic 77’), 4. Bradley Walker, 5. Steven Katsionis, 6. Dominic Cox, 8. Oliver Green, 9. Shohei Okuno 10. Nathan Roberts, 11. Jack Green (24. Amaury Gauthier 58’), 12. Joshua Swadling, 13. Robert Ezekiel, 17. Harry Jones
Substitutes not used: 14. Jordon Koton,16. Brad Paikin, 25. Max Ephraim, 60. Taka Noji
Yellow Cards: 6. Dominic Cox (40’), 5. Steven Katsionis (55’)
Red Cards: Nil
BLACKTOWN CITY FC: 1. Tristan Prendergast (gk), 3. Daniel Collins, 4. Yianni Spyrakis, 6. Matt Lewis, 8. Daniel Araujo (17. Dakota Askew 75’), 9. Joey Gibbs, 10. James Demetriou, (34. Suleyman Bangura 65’), 12. Lachlan Campbell (21. William Mutch 58’) 15. Mason Versi, 18. Joshua Bartolotto, 19. Adam Berry, 24. Jackson Bandiera,
Substitutes not used: 14. Henry Davies, 16. Dale Howarth, 20. Dylan Niski, 22. Leroy Jennings, 23. Daniel Bragg,
Yellow Cards: 12. Lachlan Campbell (39’), 24. Jackon Bandiera (73’)
Red Card: Nil
Player Ratings have now been hidden due to the second half of the season commencing.
By National Premier Leagues NSW Reporter Nicholas Rupolo