Wollongong Wolves have clawed their way back to a 1-1 draw with Manly United after a spirited late revival at WIN Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
A dominant second half display had the Manly on course for three points with Sasa Macura’s beautiful strike from the outside box appearing decisive.
The Wolves, however, refused to roll over, throwing numbers forward to stage a late comeback which allowed Yuzo Tashiro to head his side level in the last minute of normal time.
The hosts went close to snatching a win late on, yet the points were shared in a match that both teams will draw positives from.
With a point separating the sides before kick off, Wolves went into the match looking to recapture the early season form which has kept the South Coast club within reaching distance of the top five despite a recent three match losing streak.
Goals were also at the forefront of coach Jacob Timpano’s mind as he sought to increase his side’s frugality in front of goal to beyond a goal per match.
Paul Dee’s reigning NPL NSW champions were following an opposite trajectory, unbeaten since the third round having shaken off a slow start to their season.
Nikola Taneski, who was a continual threat throughout the match for Manly, spurned an early headed chance, before Peter Simonoski stung the palms of Shaun Caitlin at the other end with a shot from the edge of the box minutes later.
Taneski threatened once again on the quarter hour mark, cutting inside his marker before lifting his left-footed finish over the crossbar.
Chris Price, who provided a bright spark from left wingback on his return from injury, was next to test Caitlin with a powerfully driven strike from range, yet the keeper proved equal to the task with a parry.
An injury to Leigh Egger midway through the opening half forced a defensive shuffle for Manly with Jamie Lobb entering the fray, and Wolves were quick to pounce on the disruption as they found the back of the net with their next opportunity.
Takuya Nozawa’s sweeping free-kick was tucked away by an unmarked James Baldacchino at the far post, however the linesman’s flag ruled out the effort for offside much to the commanding defender’s displeasure.
The visitors soon settled back into their rhythm with Brendan Chalokian, Macura, and Taneski beginning to combine fluidly; the latter curled an effort wide of goal from the edge of the box before then heading Lobb’s perfectly weighted cross over the bar with the last chance of the half.
Paul Dee’s halftime team talk hit the spot as his side came flying out of the blocks from the restart, with Taneski again looking threatening with his dribbling before Marley Peterson forced a save from Pasfield.
Peterson tested the keeper once again moments later, this time with a sneakily placed shot from the edge of the box that Pasfield could only parry into the path of Chalokian; with an open goal begging the rebound was skied over the crossbar, prompting the left winger to collapse to the pitch in disbelief.
Chalokian’s next effort would have made up for the miss if it weren’t for a miraculous piece of goalkeeping; a brilliant first time shot from Keiren Paull’s cross was acrobatically tipped over the crossbar by Pasfield who was looking simply unbeatable.
Wolves continued to weather the storm, with substitute Dylan McAllister glancing wide before Pasfield tipped Travis Oughtred’s header over the crossbar.
It was obviously going to take something special to beat Pasfield today, and Macura duly delivered with a quarter of an hour remaining, finding space of the edge of the box to drive a powerful shot into the top corner via the keeper’s fingertips.
Wolves looked to pull themselves together to try and get something out of this match, and they had the crowd on their feet as Simonoski looked to capitalise on defensive slip only to be felled by Paull on the edge of the box.
In saving his side Paull saw yellow, escaping a dismissal thanks to the presence of fellow defender Daniel Alessi, and then proceeded to save his side once again by heading Nozawa’s ensuing free kick off the goal line.
The hosts were not to be disheartened and continued to pile forward in search of an equaliser with Price drawing a brilliant save from Caitlin.
Wolves were soon rewarded for their perseverance, drawing themselves level a minute later when Tashiro rose highest to gracefully head Nozawa’s cross into the back of the net.
They almost found themselves ahead deep into injury time when substitute Brendan Griffin picked out Price in the box, however the wingback’s header bounced across the face of goal as the sides shared the spoils.
Wolves coach Jacob Timpano was delighted with the spirit of his side displayed as they stared defeat in the face before fighting their way back into the match.
“We were a bit flat today,” said Timpano.
“It’s not easy when you’ve lost a few on the trot, and the highlight for me today was that being 1-0 down with a few minutes to go, the boys could have thrown the towel in quite easily.
“But they showed their character and scored, they went to the death and probably could have snatched a winner – maybe not deservedly so but we haven’t had much luck over the last few weeks so it would have been nice to get a bit today.
“We’ll take the point and will build on it for the rest of the season.”
Timpano was spot on in pointing out luck had eluded his side of late, yet they will take heart from the late revival which has buried their unwanted losing streak.
“We had a goal disallowed in the first half, which was a fairly tight call,” explained Timpano.
“Then we had a penalty shout, which Adrian (Arndt) said it was a handball but not deliberate, which is always debatable.
“We had one cleared off the line from Taka’s (Nozawa’s) free kick.
“I’m a straight shooter and we haven’t had much luck this season.
“Hopefully that’s going to turn soon, and when it does we’ll be a real force.”
Paul Dee was naturally disappointed to have seen two points dropped so late in the match, yet duly credited his opponent for their rousing recovery.
“We know it’s a tough game – this is a very hard away trip,” said Dee.
“I thought we created a lot of opportunity and controlled the vast majority of it.
Credit to Wollongong, they threw caution to the wind in the last five minutes and threw a lot of bodies forward to get a result on the death.
“We know he (Tashiro) is a very good striker, he had the one chance in the box and that’s why there’s a lot of wraps on him, he’s very dangerous.”
Dee’s side are now undefeated in six matches, yet will seek more from themselves as they look to better close out matches in future as they battle to retain their crown in 2018.
“Teams get momentum right there at the death,” explained Dee.
“They lose structure and stream forward, and it’s hard sometimes when you know you’ve controlled the majority of the game and there’s still only one goal in it so they were always in this match.
“I think we need to learn from that and when we’ve got chance to put teams away and make the challenge for them way too difficult to overcome, then their enthusiasm will probably drop down.
“When you’re only 1-0 up and you keep them in the game then what happened today is always a possibility.
“When we look at each week and analyse the performance that it’s growing – that’s the pleasing component.
“We still need to control on closing out games like what we had here, that’s three points away from home – a tough three points to achieve – so we need to work on shutting those games out to take the full win.”
Wollongong Wolves 1 (Yuzo Tashiro 90’)
Manly United 1 (Sasa Macura 72’)
Sunday 6th May, 2018
WIN Stadium, Wollongong
Referee: A. Arndt
Assistants: M. McOrist, A. Hosnani
4th Official: C. Wright
Wollongong Wolves: 1. Justin Pasfield; 4. Michael Robinson, 5. James Baldacchino, 6. Nicholas Montgomery, 7. Chris Price, 9. Peter Simonoski (12. Jordan Nikolovski 84’), 10. Joshua Macdonald (8. Brendan Griffin 76’), 17. Ryan Ensor (3. Darcy Madden 67’), 28. Michael Stojanovski, 30. Yuzo Tashiro, 40. Takuya Nozawa
Substitutes not used: 16. Luke Kairies, 23. Steven Hayes
Yellow Cards: James Baldacchino 50’, Nick Montgomery 75’
Red Cards: nil
Manly United: 20. Shaun Catlin, 2. Kieren Paull , 4. Travis Oughtred, 6. Dominic Ferguson, 8. Sasa Macura, 10. Brendan Cholakian, 11. Nikola Taneski (7. Marco Sama 85’), 12. Leigh Egger (3. Jamie Lobb 25’), 21. Joseph Fox, 23. Daniel Alessi, 33. Marley Peterson (9. Dylan Macallister 57’)
Substitutes Not Used: 1. Dylan Mitchell, 22. George Firth
Yellow Cards: Brendan Chalokian 65’, Kieren Paull 81’
Red Cards: nil
3 – Justin Pasfield (WW)
2 – Keiran Paull (MU)
1 – Nikola Taneski (MU)
-By National Premier Leagues NSW Mens reporter Michael Shoolman