Blacktown City has held off a fast finishing Sutherland Sharks to claim a 2-1 win in their National Premier Leagues NSW Round 11 lash at Seymour Shaw on Saturday night.
Despite taking a 2-0 lead with only 20 minutes left to play, Blacktown were forced to scrap for the win in the dying stages in a match with truly lit up in an exciting second stanza.
Joey Gibbs opened the scoring for City after only twelve minutes before Danny Choi doubled the visitors lead in the 67th minute with the Sharks looking unable to match it with Mark Crittenden’s well oiled side.
However, The home side found a second wind as Blair Brown pulled one back for Sutherland late on to give Blacktown a jittery final few minutes.
The final flurry proved too little too late and City’s backs against the wall defence helped close out what should’ve been a much more straight forward victory for the Seven Hills based club.
Keisuke Hayashi had the first real chance of the match but his blocked shot resulted in a succession of corners for Sutherland from which Nick Littler headed downward but was unable to beat Tristan Prendergast in the 7th minute.
The injury ravaged Sharks, who lost two players before the kick-off, looked sluggish in the opening exchanges but Blacktown were unable to register an effort of any note.
It was fairly pedestrian fare early on with both teams resorting to long balls to break down their opposition defence.
Devante Clut took matters into his own hands on 12 minutes and clipped the ball into the area from the right for skipper Joey Gibbs to head past Ryan Norval to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
After taking the lead, City were not going to concede any equalisers as their well drilled defence displayed absolutely no weakness to close down anything Sutherland could throw at them.
Joshua Da Silva unleashed from 35-yards in reply for the Sharks but it was wayward and well off the mark in the 22nd minute.
Gibbs nearly added his second of the night a minute later but Sutherland shot stopper Norval was treated to an easy clean up after the ball took a deflection.
The Sharks slowly fought their way back into the contest and Littler spurned a great chance when he headed over mid-way through the first half.
City’s defence were holding the Sharks at bay and were lucky not to concede when Jacob Tratt fired wide after bursting unmarked into the box to unleash a bullet header.
An incredible save from Blacktown keeper Tristan Prendergast ensured the visitors went into the break with their one goal lead intact as he reacted brilliantly to keep out a screamer from Lachlan Everett just before the interval.
Blacktown started the second-half with more vigour and purpose about their play and pressed a little higher up the field.
The ploy paid immediate dividends as Choi was unlucky not to score in the 50th minute as his volley was cleared by the home defence
Despite the fast start to the second stanza, the match slowed quickly and was in desperate need of a moment of magic to inject some life into the contest.
That moment arrived in the 67th minute when Choi picked the pocket of Leroy Jennings before playing a smart one-two and slotting home the return to double Blacktown’s lead.
The visitors could now afford to sit back and coast to what should’ve been a regulation win away from home.
Choi was unlucky not to have nabbed a second goal for the night when he made a sizzling sizzling break down the right, dummied a quickly back-tracking Tratt but clipped the ball wide of the woodwork with Gibbs unmarked in the area.
It was a let-off for Sutherland and one which would provide them a chance to fight back into the contest.
The visitors paid the price for not killing off the match in the 84th minute when Brown curled an exquisite shot past the outstretched arms of the keeper to cut the deficit to only 2-1 with less than 10 minutes on the clock.
What had appeared a formality for Mark Crittenden’s men was now a backs to the wall commitment for his defence as they were forced to repel a late fight back from Sutherland.
Despite the Sharks hustle and bustle in they dying stages, in reality they were lucky to still be in the contest as Mason Verdi spurned another chance for Blacktown in added time as he hit the upright.
City would leave the Shire with the points and left coach Mark Crittenden relieved his side was able to get the win despite being below their best.
“We were a little bit flat tonight to be honest,” he said.
“We got the early goal which is always good when you come here as it’s not an easy surface to play on. It seems slower than ours at Lily Homes Stadium and it takes a little time to settle into the groove.
“Full credit to Sutherland as Grant (Lee) has them playing good football. They are young and keen but when you’re away from home and score twice and it’s enough to win the game you take it of course.
“Obviously with 6 to 7 minutes to go they pulled one back and the jitters come into it when anything can happen. We got in a little too deep, which is disappointing, and allowed them to peg one back but over all to come here and get three points makes us very happy.”
Sutherland Coach Grant Lee rued what could’ve been for his side.
“We had some really good opportunities in the first half,” he said.
“When you look at the two goals they scored it’s through our own naivety again where we just switched off at the back.
“There was a hint of a foul on Leroy (Jennings) for their second and everyone around just stopped and watched as Danny (Choi) plays a one-two and finishes. If you don’t stop he doesn’t get the chance to score.
“We switched off twice and that’s the two goals Blacktown have got and then you’re chasing it against a top side especially with the number of players we’ve got out at the moment.
“We’re lacking that depth to come off the bench and it’s been a really weird season in terms of the amount of players we have out but that’s football and we’ll live with it.”
Sutherland Sharks 1 (Brown 84’)
Blacktown City 2 (Gibbs 12’, Choi 67’)
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Saturday, 19th May 2018
Referee: Toby Plasto
Assistant Referees: Andre Giev & Yosemite Guilmeer
Fourth Official: Bradley Wright
Sutherland Sharks: 1.Ryan Norval, 2.Jacob Tratt, 6.Lachlan Everett, 9.Adrian Vranic (11.Hristijan Tanoski 73’), 10.Joshua Da Silva 12.Blair Brown, 13.Robert Watson, 15.Nick Littler, 16.Ryoga Suyama (28.Noah Chia 77’), 17.Leroy Jennings, 20.Keisuke Hayashi
Substitutes not used: 4.Hayden Morton, 21.Nikola Loe, 33.Tom Papa
Yellow Cards: Brown 30’
Blacktown City: 1.Tristan Prendergast, 3.Giorgio Speranza, 4.Roberto Speranza (16.Mark Rodic 78’), 5.Grant Lynch, 7.Devante Clut (6.Matt Lewis 65’), 8.Daniel Araujo, 9.Joey Gibbs, 10.Connor Evans, 11.Danny Choi (18.Mason Versi 81’), 19.Zach Cairncross, 22.Yianni Spyrakis
Substitutes not used: 20.Stevan Savicic
Yellow Cards: Spyrakis 80’
3 – Joey Gibbs (BC)
2 – Danny Choi (BC)
1 – Blair Brown (SS)
-By National Premier Leagues NSW Reporter Micky Brock