Contrary to mid-season predictions where Sutherland Sharks were ?home and hosed? in the race for the Premiership, a late slump ? along with a tremendous run by Wollongong FC ? has set-up a final Round Premiership decider at Seymour Shaw on Sunday.
Sutherland Sharks exorcised the demons that have seen them go three-weeks without a win, Tiger Turf Cup semi-final included, to keep their hold on Top-Spot.
The Sharks were flawless against West Sydney Berries, despite a shaky start in-front of their home crowd. The Berries? evening became an uphill battle when on 41? minutes defender Jack Sobczyk was given a straight red card for a ?last man foul? on Brad Boardman.
Jim Bakis converted the resulting free-kick to open the floodgates before midfielder Nick Stavroulakis doubled the lead after the break.
The League?s top goalscorer Brad Boardman added a quick-fire hat-trick, with Matt Hall adding one goal, before the Berries were reduced to 9-men with the dismissal of Ryan Jones.
Wollongong FC kept up the pace with the Sharks ensuring the final Round clash with the Shire-side would start on an even par. The Wolves defeat of Marconi Stallions was far less convincing than that of the Sharks, though a definite morale boosting display in-sight of the finals-series.
The Wolves were forced to come from two goals down as Tallan Martin and Jay Lucas had the Stallions two-up after 55? minutes.
The Christopher Price show between the 68? and 76? minutes kick-started the Wolves? revival as the midfielder found the back of the net twice to draw his side level.
With 5? minutes remaining on the clock, Ilija Prenzoski masterfully hit the Wolves ahead with a well-taken effort to secure the three-points and set-up a thrilling finale against the Sharks.
Sydney United?s bid to secure a spot in the Top-Five took a heavy beating at home against Manly United FC on Saturday evening. A Craig Midgley penalty on 71? minutes sealed the win for Manly in Beau Busch?s last match before joining Newcastle Jets in the A-League.
Sydney United?s evening had been dealt a bad hand prior to the spot-kick as Ivan Petkovic?s men were reduced to 8-men with red cards issued to Josip Moric, Todd Brodie and Damon Collina. Despite the numerical advantage, Phil Moss? Manly failed to round out the result, holding on in the end for a 1-0 win and three-points.
The Reds? Top-Five aspirations now rest in the hands of others as A.P.I.A.-Leichhardt Tigers sat two-points behind the Reds on Sunday.
The Tigers clash with Sydney Olympic was called-off after 39? minutes due to the torrential rain, and storms, that hit Sydney. With the scores locked at 0-0, referee Kris Griffith-Jones was left with little choice but to bring a close to the match for the poor conditions and the safety of the players.
Football NSW will announce shortly the date for this match to be completed.
Macarthur Rams secured their second win of the season with a 3-2 win over Penrith-Nepean United to ease the tension on their bid to avoid relegation.
A double for Glen Trifiro had the Rams 2-0 up inside the first 30? minutes before Jason Browne re-opened the contest for Penrith.
Shannon Hankin re-instated the Rams two-goal lead on 66? minutes with a tremendous effort following a great counter-attack by the home-side.
Despite a late Ben Wright goal for Penrith-Nepean, Paul Carter?s men ground out a vital result in the club?s bid to avoid relegation in the Club Championship.
In the repeat of last season?s Grand-Final, Blacktown City Demons and Bankstown City ? both sides out of the running for finals football this time around ? battled out a 1-1 draw at Gabbie Stadium. With the Demons battling to avoid the wooden-spoon, Bankstown City?s hopes to salvage a season that has gone awfully wrong revolve around the August 10 Tiger Turf Cup Final.
Against the Demons though, despite their dominance of possession, Bankstown City failed to take the win. A first-half goal by Chris Godoy-Bascurt was ruled out in the dying minutes of the match by Paul Karbon who diverted a Daniel Wilkinson corner from close-range.
-By Joseph Carlucci