A GOAL from substitute Travis Cooper in the 85th minute handed Manly United a memorable 3-2 win against Sydney United 58 FC that all but ended the 2016 Premiers hopes of making the 2017 Finals Series on Sunday afternoon at Cromer Park.
Manly needed to respond after losing 5-0 last start to APIA Leichhardt, and evergreen striker Dylan Macallister led the way early.
He was in everything, and on 7′ minutes carved out the first chance of the contest.
The targetman found Nikola Taneski on the right who skipped past his marker with ease before unleashing an effort which Tom Manos blocked.
From the resulting corner Scott Balderson saw his header cleared off the line, and the visitors knew they were in a testing game.
On 25′ minutes Taneski was inches away from opening the scoring.
He hit a free kick up and over the wall and it looked destined for the top corner, only to sail over the crossbar by the nearest of margins.
Dom Ferguson then went close for Manly after 34 minutes, and when Dejan Pandurevic headed over a Taneski cross, you sensed a goal was coming.
Matthew Sim almost provided it for the Reds against the run of play.
The Manly United junior saw an effort from his right foot deflect on to the crossbar, but he was celebrating moments later when Chris Payne did find the back of the net.
Payne, also a Manly junior, had time to pick his spot before side footing past Dylan Mitchell.
When Taneski was denied by Manos on 49′ minutes, the locals in the Lucas Neill Grandstand began to get restless.
Their frustration was further compounded when Panni Nikas gave Sydney United a two-goal buffer after 59′ minutes.
The attacking lynchpin, who was uncharacteristically quiet in the first half, couldn’t miss from six yards after reacting first to a cushioned header from Payne.
Many teams in Manly’s shoes would have rolled over at this point, but Warren Grieve’s men are made of stern stuff.
Replacement striker Marco Sama halved the deficit on 67′ minutes after pouncing on a shot from Taneski which Manos parried.
On 72′ minutes it was 2-2.
Dejan Pandurevic picked his spot with a free kick from the edge of the area, his shot nestling in the bottom right corner.
Payne then went close on 79′ minutes, only to be denied by an alert Mitchell in the Manly goal.
The passionate Manly shot stopper then brilliantly saved from a Nikas shot from point blank range, and with the hosts finishing stronger, a winner was inevitable.
Cooper showed good feet on 83′ minutes, but after bursting into the area produced a tame effort which Manos gobbled up.
The one time Newcastle Jets winger had the last laugh moments later, with his cross cum-shot trickling into the goal, sparking euphoric scenes on the Manly bench.
Nick Olsen then had a chance in the 90th minute to salvage a point for the 2016 Premiers, but he volleyed over from the edge of the area.
Manly United captain Jamie Lobb hailed the character from his team at the final whistle.
“I felt we were on top in the first half, and probably a little unlucky to be 1-0 down,” he said.
“We then dug deep when they went two goals up, I’m so proud of the boys.
“I also felt our substitutes were great, they changed the game, which is always what you want.”
Sydney United 58 FC’s Matt Sim conceded it was a game to quickly forget.
“Two goals up and then we threw it away, we weren’t good enough defensively,” he said.
“We needed to keep working hard, but we didn’t do that.
“Our focus now is re-grouping and putting in a better performance this week in the Westfield FFA Cup (against Far North Queensland Heat) Wednesday.”
Manly United 3 (Marco Sama 67′, Dejan Pandurevic 72′, Travis Cooper 85′)
Sydney United 58 FC 2 (Chris Payne 37′, Panni Nikas 59′)
Cromer Park, Sunday August 6, 2017
Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones
Assistant referees: S.Edeling, R.Osborne
Fourth official: H.Jomaa
Manly United: 1.Dylan MITCHELL, 2.Kieren PAULL, 3.Jamie LOBB, 4.Travis OUGHTRED, 6.Dom FERGUSON, 8.Sasa MACURA, 9.Dylan MACALLISTER, (28.Mitchell ROOKE 80′) 11.Nikola TANESKI, (7.Travis COOPER 69′) 12.Leigh EGGER, 13.Scott BALDERSON, (15.Marco SAMA 59′) 14.Dejan PANDUREVIC
Substitutes not used: 20.Shaun CATLIN, 16.Sipan BERTI
Yellow cards: Balderson 40′
Red cards: Nil
Sydney United 58 FC: 21.Tom MANOS, 3.Michael NEILL, 23.Panni NIKAS, 66.Chris PAYNE, 8.Matthew SIM, 17.Matthew BILIC, 44.Yianni FRAGOGIANNIS, (9.Adrian VRANIC 86′) 20.Peter MARKOVIC, 7.Yutaro SHIN, (32.Nic OLSEN 46′) 5.Anthony TOMELIC, 14.Nick STAVROULAKIS (18.Glen TRIFIRO 76′)
Substitutes not used: 16.Stepjan PARIC
Yellow cards: Stavroulakis 22′, Fragogiannis 27′, Markovic 71′
Red cards: Nil