Rockdale City Suns have edged closer to locking up a spot in the finals after a 2-1 win against Marconi Stallions at Ilinden Sports Centre on Sunday
Goals to Bai Antoniou and Aleks Canak mid-way through the second stanza gave the Suns the upper hand.
Sean Rooney struck with a curling free-kick in the final ten minutes to halve the deficit but it proved to be nothing more than a consolation goal for the visitors.
Rockdale now have a firm grip on fifth spot with 29 points, five ahead of sixth placed Manly United.
Alec Urosevski was caught offside as the Suns pressured Marconi in the early stages without threatening keeper Nenad Vekic.
The visitors had an early claim for a penalty turned down when James Andrew went tumbling in the box.
A searching Urosevski free-kick, courtesy of a Marc Warren foul on Toufic Alameddine, in the 8th minute soared over the bar as the Suns’ continued their unrelenting pressure.
Brayden Sorge should have found the net in the 13th minute after a Blake Ricciuto header from a corner was bundled into the path of the Suns’ defender, via a reflex Vekic save, only to be blasted over from 6-yards out. Rockdale were getting closer.
Alex Canak couldn’t react quickly enough 5 minutes later, from yet another corner, that snuck through a sea of bodies to hit his foot before trickling out for a goal-kick, almost in slow-motion. Another opportunity for the home side they could ill afford to let slip.
A worrying injury to Trent McClenahan, not given to staying down, halted proceedings for some moments before the defender was replaced by Steven Hesketh. He appeared to catch his studs in the turf and and twist his knee which didn’t look too good.
Urosevski, down the left, linked up with Alameddine on the half-hour but the first time effort, difficult as it was with the ball slightly behind, was volleyed over by the midfielder.
Covic, at the other end, was little more than a spectator during the opening stanza but it was a credit to Rockdale, and Blake Ricciuto in particular, at the heart of a makeshift defence.
A catalogue of squandered opportunities by the home side saw a nil-all scoreline at the break, something neither coach would be too pleased with.
A further stoppage at the start of the second-half saw Stallions’ skipper Chris Nunes replaced by Yianni Nicolaou due to another injury. In a tough unrelenting encounter, there was no hint of foul play causing the injury and in a recurring theme, Urosevski was also forced from the field after pulling a hamstring to be replaced by Bai Antonoiu.
Rockdale finally opened the scoring when Canak pounced on a loose ball after a goalmouth scramble to fire home with some venom from close range in somewhat controversial circumstnace, the Stallions defenders claiming an initial offside before the strike but the goal stood.
One was quickly followed by a second as Suns’ sub Antoniou netted with a sweet shot to double the lead.
It would be a long road back for the visitors from here.
The never say die attitude of Marconi was evident when attempting to pull the match back but it was too little too late with Rooney coming closest from a header that whistled past the upright until he curled home a peach of a free-kick to narrow the margin.
Michael Beauchamp was left to hold his head in his hands in stoppage time when a bullet header from almost under the bar went harmlessly over and with it the opportunity of an equaliser in the final action of the match.
“We spoke at the break and said we should be a few up,” commented Suns’ coach Paul Reid at the whistle.
“Marconi were desperate, they blocked on the line but we said we cannot give them a chance,” he said.
“They had one chance in each half, Rooney took a great free-kick and it made things a little nervous for the last 10-minutes but apart from that, and the header at the end, I feel we dominated the game and probably should have won more comfortably.
“We took our chances in the second-half and maybe could have added to the scoreline but at the end of the day, they were two points behind us in the final’s race and are now 5 behind and it puts us in a great position.
“We’ve created a lot of chances during the year and not taken them,” rued Stallions coach Peter Tsekenis.
“Today we didn’t create many and I’d have to say that is the worst match in terms of creating chances I can think of,” he said.
“They were hurting us with the early long ball tactics and it worked at times but we sorted it out however I feel the match hinged on a couple of moments and we had a good shout for a penalty early on that I would like to look at again and their first goal, which we thought was offside, is another.
“We got ourselves back in the game and had the chance to equalise right at the end and come away with a decent result but it wasn’t to be but that’s football and we have a midweek game coming up and we’ll concentrate on that.
“We’ve played worse and won and also better but lost but there were pivotal moments in the 90-minutes that didn’t go our way.”
Rockdale City Suns 2 (Canak 59’, Antoniou 66’)
Marconi Stallions 1 (Rooney 82’)
Ilinden Sports Centre, Rockdale
Sunday 22nd July, 2018
Referee: Stephen Lucas
Assistants: Nick Backo & Scott Edeling
Fourth Official: Cameron Wright
Rockdale City Suns: 1.Ante Covic, 4.Trent McClanahan (3.Steven Hesketh 28’), 6.Blake Ricciuto, 7.Alec Urosevski (9.Bai Antoniou 56’), 8.Alex Canak, 10.Harris Gaitatzis, 12.Idriss El Hafiane, 14.Brayden Sorge, 17.Toufic Alameddine (11.Jonathan Grozdanovski 78’), 19.Patrick Savor, 21.Michael Neill
Substitutes not used: 16.Isaac Savor, 25.Jake Soutter
Marconi Stallions: 1.Nenad Vekic, 2.Mark Warren, 3.Liam Youlley (8.Sean Rooney 72’), 5.Michael Beauchamp, 6.Sean O’Connell, 9.Charles Mendy, 10.Marko Jesic, 12.James Andrew (11.Judah Cleur 63’), 14.Peter Pelekanos, 22.Brandon Vella, 23.Christopher Nunes (38.Yianni Nicolaou 48’)
Substitutes not used: , 15.Mateo Poljak, 21.Kristian Sekutkovski
Yellow Cards: Warren 70’
-By National Premier Leagues NSW reporter Micky Brock