In what has been a hectic week following the sudden resignation of coach David Barrett and his Assistant Chris Minol, the Stallions withstood the Sharks? pressure and hit back with three unanswered goals and re-opening the race for the Minor Premiership.
The Stallions victory boosts the side?s chances of avoiding the drop in the Club Championship, though the win will be remembered for the return of striker Jay Lucas.
Lucas made his first start in almost two-and-a-half years following a series of serious injuries and it was fitting that he would score upon his return to set-up a memorable Stallions win.
Sutherland Sharks came of the blocks quickest with an impressive array of passing and movement in the opening stages.
Michael Katz often found himself with acres of space on the right-flank, and it was via this route that the Sharks were most dangerous.
On 6? minutes, a hopeful long-ball from George Souris picked out Katz with space to run at the byline. Katz?s low cut-back cross fell into the path of new Sydney FC Youth team signing Brendan Gan who failed to connect cleanly with his effort finishing wide.
Katz was at it again 2? minutes later as he floated a cross into the path of Gan at the far post. Gan?s knock-down for Boardman saw the Sharks? top goal-scorer turn sharply and shoot just wide of goal from two-metres out.
Brendan Gan?s slalom effort on 21? minutes saw the talented midfielder shun the challenges of three Marconi Stallions? markers before winning a free-kick in a promising area. Pedj Bojic hit the free-kick from a central position ? the effort had Cem Akilli scrambling down to his right, though the ball finished just wide of the post.
The Stallions defence was again at ?sixes and sevens? moments later as the speed of Michael Katz continued to trouble Marconi?s Umut Tokdogan. Katz?s floater into the penalty-area created confusion in-front of Akilli?s goal, though Nathan Moulds did well to clear the ball away to safety.
Ante Deur?s incursion on the right-flank behind the Sharks? defence opened up some space for the Stallions to test Phillip Zabaks. Deur had two attempts to cross the ball ? the first ricocheted back into his path, before his final effort eluded the entire penalty-area.
Nathan Moulds was again the saviour for the home-side back at the other end as he diverted what would have been a free-header for Neil Jablonski at the back post.
The Sharks? Shane Lyons picked up a serious knock to his ankle on 33? minutes and the left-sided midfielder was forced to leave the field, replaced by Matthew Hall.
A smooth counter-attack from Marconi following another venture forward by Katz for the Sharks, provided Tolgay Ozbey with a one-one-one effort on the right-side of the penalty-area. Ozbey?s diagonal effort was poor and finished wide, failing to even force a save from Zabaks.
Despite the despair of the small crowd present, the home-side did find their goal against the run of play.
Stefan Donevski?s cross from the right found the head of a totally unmarked Jay Lucas who had no trouble netting from close-range.
The visitors continued to pepper the Stallions? defence despite going a goal behind and in the 40? minute the Sharks thought they had drawn level.
A Jim Nikas cross from the left caught Cem Akilli totally unawares as the ball struck his cross-bar. The rebound fell into the path of Hall who converted from close-range, though the linesman had his flag raised as the initial cross had swung over the byline.
The second-half was brought to life in the 55? minute following a timid start by both sides as referee Ryan Shepherd awarded Marconi a penalty. A seemingly harmless situation near the byline involving Ante Deur and Jim Nikas saw the latter slide-in and clip the Stallions wide-man, leaving the referee with no choice but to award the spot-kick.
Captain courageus Nahuel Arrarte ? who really showed his experience and passion in the second-period ? converted low to the goalkeeper?s left, sending Zabaks the wrong way.
The Stallions made it 3-0 on 55? minutes as Jim Nikas coughed up possession on half-way. Tolgay Ozbey pounced on the opportunity and used his speed and strength to dribble into the penalty-area and hit a venomous low-drive across Zabak?s goal and inside the shot-stopper?s right-hand post.
The introduction of Nick Stavroulakis and Mike Robinson added some spark to a Sharks side that had their heads down, and the League leaders could have bought themselves a life-line 10? minutes from the end. A hopeful long-ball into the penalty-area picked out Stavroulakis who was fouled by a defender as he attempted to bring the ball under control.
Pedj Bojic stepped-up to take the spot-kick, though his driven effort to the goalkeeper?s right was expertly parried by Akilli.
Sutherland?s evening in-front of goal was summed up by their final effort of the night. A free-kick on the left was laid-off into the path of Gan who hit a ferocious drive that finished completely wide of goal.
Stallions? stand-in coach Luke Casserly was extremely happy with the win and the response from his players, though he was quick to point out the immense input of both David Barrett and Chris Minol:
?I am very happy with the win tonight, it was an extremely hard-fought win as Sutherland did have us on the back foot ? especially in the first-half.
?We showed that we can defend and I am very happy with the effort put in by each of the players that took to the field tonight.
?One point that I need to add is that the win tonight is testament to the efforts of David Barrett and Chris Minol ? the boys are aware that we slackened off in recent weeks, and unfortunately it has resulted in the coaching staff leaving. Though the performance, and victory tonight is credit to those two men who have been immense for this side.?
Asked about his future and potentially keeping the coaching ?gig? Casserly was quick to respond:
?I have spoken with the Club and it is basically a position that I will fill for the remaining weeks of the season. I personally am planning to play on next season, so it isn?t a position that I am going for at the moment.?
Sutherland Sharks boss Brian Brown was disappointed with the result, though remained upbeat with what he saw from his players:
?Very disappointing to lose the match. I thought though that we dominated a lot of the match ? especially in the first-half.
?We didn?t take any of those chances and Marconi, with the fewer chances, managed to take theirs. That is the way football goes sometimes.?
Sutherland has the Tiger Turf Cup semi-final next Saturday evening, and attentions will switch to that competition ? at least for the next week:
?We made some uncharacteristic mistakes tonight also,? continued Brown.
?Yet we?ll work on that during the week, and I am confident that the boys are more than capable of bouncing back and performing well again on in the Cup.?
Marconi Stallions 3 (Jay Lucas 38?, Nahuel Arrarte 55? (pen.), Tolgay Ozbey ?65?)
Sutherland Sharks 0
Venue: Marconi Stallions
Referee: Ryan Shepherd
Assistant Referees: Dale Fuda and Scott Edeling
Fourth Official: Jason Blackwood
Crowd: Approx. 400.
Marconi Stallions: 20. Cem Akilli; 2. Wade Oostendorp, 5. Nathan Moulds (17. Sean Mitchell 89?), 7. Benjamin Gough, 9. Kain Rastall, 10. Tolgay Ozbey (11. Matthew Gordon 71?), 12. Stefan Donevski, 13. Ante Deur, 14. Jay Lucas (8. Tallan Martin 60?), 26. Nahuel Arrarte, 38. Umut Tokdogan
Substitutes Not Used:, 14. Matthew Gordon,
40. Matthew Sufesby
Yellow Cards: Wade Oostendorp 45?, Benjamin Gough 86?, Cem Akilli 90?+2?
Red Cards: Nil
Sutherland Sharks: 99. Phillip Zabaks; 2. George Souris (14. Nick Stavroulakis 69?), 3. Brendan Gan, 4. Pedj Bojic, 15. Michael Katz, 6. Shane Lyons (10. Matt Hall 36?) (38. Mike Robinson 69?), 37. Jim Nikas, 8. David Huxley, 9. Brad Boardman, 22, David Reid, 39. Neil Jablonski
Substitutes Not Used: 21. Matt Brandalise, 20. Jim Lawrence
Yellow Cards: Jim Nikas 51?
Red Cards: Nil
3 ? Nahuel Arrarte (MS)
2 ? Jay Lucas (MS)
1 ? Pedj Bojic (SS)
-By Joseph Carlucci