After a tumultuous off-season at Miranda which saw former coach Brian ?Bomber? Brown head for the exit door alongside A-League finds Pedj Bojic and Brendan Gan, many pundits have tipped the boys from the Shire to struggle in 2009.
But Robbie Stanton?s men showed in patches a Top-Four spot is a realistic goal if they can develop a cutting edge in their attacking third.
In a scrappy first-half, Penrith-Nepean United recruit Panny Nikas went closest to opening the scoring on 31? minutes but lacked the composure to beat Brad Swancott who spread himself well to deny the livewire midfielder adjacent to the penalty spot.
Six minutes later Sutherland playmaker Nick Stavroulakis succumbed to a groin injury and was replaced by Jim Bakis, who quickly made his presence felt with a series of brutal challenges on Manly teenager Joe Gibbs and Scott Thomas.
Former golden boot winner Robbie Cattanach, who had a quiet match by his standards, should have done better on 54? minutes for the home side with a free-kick from 22-yards; but sprayed his chance well over Nathan Denham?s crossbar.
Ten minutes later Josh Sama had the best chance of the match following a teasing ball in from the right via lively substitute Michael Lloyd-Green but snatched at his half volley, spraying it over from six yards.
Swancott then kept Manly in the game on 77? minutes after a brilliant double save to deny Ben Spruce.
Wearing the captain?s armband in the absence of Joe Schirripa, the ultra consistent shot-stopper did well to block Spruce?s goal-bound first attempt before getting down well to his right to smother the rebound effort.
The home-side lost Andrew Mailer in injury-time to a red card decision, leaving Manly with ten-men for the final exchanges.
Sutherland coach Robbie Stanton was happy to leave the northern beaches with a draw:
?I thought our first 45 minutes was really good,? he said.
?What let us down was our execution, we created plenty of chances but weren?t good enough to put them away.
?We have raised the bar based on how we went last year and even though it?s a different team we are looking to maintain that discipline and consistency.
?I saw some good signs for our first competition game which is what you want at this stage of the year.?
His opposite Phil Moss was also content with a share of the spoils:
?When you look at the balance of the game they had the better of the half chances so we will take a point,? he said.
?With the recent rain we missed a few games so I expected us to be a bit rusty.
?I was happy with the effort though, it gives us a platform to work with.?
Manly United 0
Sutherland Sharks 0
Sunday, 1st March, 2009
Cromer Park, Dee Why
Referee: Kris Griffith-Jones
Assistants: Scott Edeling, Gareth Askham
Crowd: 400 approx
Manly United: 1.Brad SWANCOTT; 2.Sean BOWDEN, 3.Andrew MAILER, 4.Spencer PRIOR, 6.Scott THOMAS, 9.Robbie CATTANACH, (23.Fabio ALVES PENA 84?) 10.Josh SAMA, 11.Craig MIDGLEY, 15. Keith SHEVLIN, (8.Michael LLOYD-GREEN 62?) 17.Scott WRIGHT, 35.Joe GIBBS (13.Mitch MACEDO 73?)
Substitutes Not Used: 19.Luke READING, 20.Rhyss KEANE (RGK)
Yellow Cards: Andrew MAILER 48?, Fabio ALVES PENA 88?
Red Cards: Andrew MAILER 92?
Sutherland Sharks: 1.Nathan DENHAM; 2.George SOURIS , 4.Michael ROBINSON, 6.Chris PRICE, 8.Nathan RALPH, (10.Matthew HALL 75?) 9.Brad BOARDMAN, 11.Ben SPRUCE, 12. Neil JABLONSKI, 14.Nick STAVROULAKIS, (7.Jim BAKIS 38?) (19.Matt VILLAZON 81?) 15.Michael KATZ, 23.Panny NIKAS
Substitutes Not Used: 17.Jordan NIKOLOVSKI
Yellow Cards: Matthew HALL 92?
3 – Brad Swancott (MU)
2 – Michael Robinson (SS)
1 – Sean Bowden (MU)
-By Andrew Prentice