The Blacktown Spartans finals dream might have been dealt a crushing final blow at Bonnyrigg Sports Club on Saturday night.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC took the spoils of victory courtesy of strikes from Tynan Diaz and Yuta Kokoda, which proved enough despite a late Spartans goal through Carlos Enwiya and an avalanche of chances for the White Eagles over the course of the game.
The White Eagles have the Spartans an early sight of the sort of night they were in for as Brian Brown’s men pushed a quick pace and pressed their opponents high up the park.
The hard work paid dividends as the White Eagles forced a number of turnovers, although they struggled to turn those turnovers into goals.
Robert Younis did not find the back of the net, but caused plenty of headaches and was contentiously denied a penalty when he looked to be fouled by two Spartans defender as he brought down an aerial ball and shaped up for a volley.
The referee declined to blow his whistle and play continued but the White Eagles remained on top.
Diaz tried his luck after nine minutes with a long-range effort, but never looked like hitting the target, before Younis and Aaron Peterson lined up well to release Kokado who could not capitalise on the good play.
Peterson was next to trouble Spartans’ goalkeeper Carlos Saliadarre when his driving run from the right ring had the Spartans defence on pedaling backwards only for the keeper to spread himself at the forward’s feet.
It would have been 1-0 in the 26th minute when Diaz beat Saliadarre with a fine cross to Ray Miller at the far post, but the midfielder could not reward his late run into the box as he lost his footing at the crucial moment.
Diaz proved more clinical with his next chance two minutes later when the ball broke to him down the right.
With the whole attacking third before him, Diaz left the recovering defenders for dead as he drove towards goal and dispatched a lovely finish into the back of the net.
It was the only goal of the half, but far from the last bit of goalmouth action.
A Spartans shot on goal through a tree of defensive legs forced a good save from James Chronopolous before Bonnyrigg was back on the front foot.
A trio of chances in the 36th minute should have provided a second goal as Kokado hit the post, before Miller’s shot from the rebound was blocked and Peterson’s saved.
Miller looked set to score again when he was well found by a Peterson cut back only to see his goal-bound strike deflected wide by Younis.
The teams went into the break with the score 1-0 in Bonnyrigg’s favour, but the Spartans looked a different side when they returned for the second half.
Fresh from a Ben De Haan spray, the Spartans took the initiative and had a penalty in the 50th minute following a jinxing run from Shu Sasaki.
The pacey forward stepped up to take the spot-kick, but could not convert as he sent his shot towards the bottom-right corner, only to be denied by a sprawling Chronopolous.
The Spartans hardly deserved to be on level terms, but the save proved the crucial point of the game as the White Eagles took control again.
The White Eagles struggled to score, though, and it was Sasaki who missed another fantastic opportunity when he sent his shot wide in the 64th minute after a superb run and cut back from Futa Nakamura.
The Spartans were duly punished by Kokado shortly after when the Japanese winger picked up the ball inside the box and hammered home.
Subsititute Carlos Enwiya scored a consolation in stoppage time as the game petered out to a deserved Bonnyrigg win, much to the delight of coach Brown.
“I was very happy with the performance partiulary the first half,” Brown said.
“Our movement was class and we were unlucky not to get a few goals.
“But if we can get on a decent flat pitch, we’ll be a threat to everyone. Our form, last week’s 45 minutes aside, has been good and we’ve shown the sort of team we are tonight.”
Spartans coach Ben De Haan was left dejected by the result and said emotions were running high after the game with the club’s finals chances nearly over.
“The first half was one of our worst performances. We’ve stayed din it, but at the end of the day it wasn’t good enough,” De Haan.
“We had no commitment in the front third and we weren’t winning the ball, we weren’t winning the seconds – we were just out of the contest.
“We just didn’t compete and we changed that in the second half, but we need to sink that penalty.
“It was tense after the game. It’s emotional in there because that looks like finals is done for us. It’s going to be tough from here.”
Bonnyrigg White Eagles 2 (Diaz 28’, Kokado 69’)
Blacktown Spartans 1 (Enwiya 90+1’)
Saturday August 1, 2015
Bonnyrigg Sports Centre
Referee: Kurt Ams
Assistant Referees: Andrej Giev and Raymond Osborne
Fourth Official: David Haslett
Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC: Chronopoulos, Diaz, Jenner, Kokado, Mansueto (Spruce 45’), Miller, Peterson, Tadrosse, Vrankovic, Younis (Caira 84’), Zonjic
Substitutes not used: Doyle, Gil, Matic,
Blacktown Spartans: Saliadarre, Crighton, Da Silva, Dukic, Kondek, Long, Morton, Nakamura (Enwiya 77’), Sasaki, Tanner, Tomohiro
Substitutes not used: Mutch, Nascimben, Quigley, Domenc
Yellow Cards: Kondek 83, Tanner 90’
by Matthew Galea, National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 Editor, at Bonnyrigg Sports Club