Manly share spoils as title race opens again


Sutherland Sharks salvaged a point in injury-time at home against Manly United FC on Saturday evening.
The Sharks trailed the Northern Beaches side 0-1 after 90’ minutes via a James Oates goal, before Jayden Koulizakis netted a dramatic equaliser for the League leaders.
Missing regular stars Panni Nikas (suspended), Nik Tsattalios (trialling overseas in Greece) and both Nick Olsen and Chris Naumoff (away with the Young Socceroos in Spain) plus striker Brad Boardman, it was a case of reshuffling the pack for Sharks coach Robbie Stanton.
Sutherland captain Nick Stavroulakis had the first effort on goal after a short corner routine which he dummied for Jamie McMaster to cross to the back stick, and after bobbling around in the box fell awkwardly for the skipper who scuffed the shot to give Dylan Mitchell an easy pick-up between the sticks.
Nathan Elasi had Mitchell scampering to cover another effort from distance that slipped over the bar in the 10’ minute as the Sharks looked to press home their early advantage.
Matthew Sim replied with a deflected shot off Perry Moustakas for the first Manly corner of the game that amounted to little as the home side cleared.
McMaster, initially having his first attempt charged down in the 17’ minute, slipped a pass to Elasi who turned his marker inside the box and fired toward goal that Mitchell beat away from close range as Sutherland perhaps should have opened the scoring and eased their nerves.
Manly were attempting to play the game the right way, not lumping it long but producing a display of controlled passing football however their forays forward were broken up time and again by Moustakas, Nick Littler and Matthew Gordon, who was having a terrific match down the left.
They were looking good up to the 18-yard box, Sutherland ceding the ground to them, but found no way through to produce any worthwhile efforts in the first 30’ minutes of the game with the home side soaking up the pressure and hitting swiftly on the break against the stretched United lines.
Lukas Stergiou was making his debut for Sutherland in the middle of the park but he didn’t look out of place with some very neat touches, vision and passing well beyond his tender years.
David Cain was the first to gain a decent opportunity but fired wildly wide of the mark on the half-hour and even then it was from the edge of the box under the close attentions of Gordon.
It was Manly who came closest to breaking the deadlock though when Brendan Cholakian wriggled his way into a shooting opportunity with the effort deflected onto the post and out for a corner.
Sutherland were living dangerously in the subdued atmosphere of Seymour Shaw Park.
James Oates received the first caution for a flailing tackle on the Sharks’ Klim Gjorseski that appeared worse than it was but it sparked the home support into life at last.
McMaster attempted another shot from the edge of the box that was again miss-hit and allowed Mitchell to gather with some ease with manly, on the whole, producing the better football of the first-half.
Whether the enormity of the situation, or the loss of key players, was at the root of Sutherland’s play is anyone’s guess but take nothing away from a spirited Manly performance from a team with no hope of finals football taking it to the league leaders.
A mere 45’ minutes remained for Sutherland to wrap up the title or go into the final round with it all to play for, time for someone to step up and make a name for themselves, be it from the Sharks or the visitors.
From the kick-off there was a clash in midfield that left both United’s Josh Ward and Sutherland’s Lukas Stergiou on the ground requiring attention, both fortunately able to continue after treatment.
Another lengthy stoppage in the 50’ minute saw Daniel Grant go down from an earlier tackle to be replaced by Colin Iley before the game continued.
An uncharacteristic defensive error from Perry Moustakas saw James Oates pounce on the gift to score the opener for Manly to take the lead in the 54’ minute with a thunderous right-footed shot that left Nathan Denham woefully exposed between the sticks.
Josh Ward brought down McMaster in a central position, earning a caution for his troubles, giving Gjorseski the chance to fire the free-kick goal-ward, curling around the wall that Mitchell palmed away before gathering at the second attempt as the Sharks piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser, turning the ‘keeper into a hero on the night.
Matt Sim tried his luck from a long range free-kick that didn’t worry Denham however it was the home side who were chasing the game as they played with greater urgency but found it difficult to break down the packed Manly defence.
Nick Stavroulakis needed to clear off the line from a Manly corner that saw the ball bounce off Leigh Egger and head toward the corner of the net near the post in the 78’ minute, a second goal surely securing the points for the visitors if it materialised.
It didn’t but the equaliser did and what a team effort it proved to be.
Michael Stuart, having a cracking game himself, played through to substitute Jordan Hughes whose initial effort was blocked and went straight up in the air before he challenged in an aerial contest to head over the advancing Mitchell. The ‘keeper scrambled back toward his line but another substitute in Jayden Koulizakis was the quickest to react and planted the ball home to renew the hopes of the Sharks fans in stoppage time.
Indeed, Koulizakis could have stolen the points for Sutherland in the 4’ minute of stoppage time but for his angled shot creeping agonisingly wide of the far upright with the final kick of the game.
Craig Midgley, Manly United coach, though not jubilant about the result said afterwards:
“I can’t say the finish tonight has been the story of our season and I can’t fault the boys because I told them before the game that to come here and get anything from the game you need 9 or 10 players playing to the best that we can to get any type of result and I think the football in the final third was excellent.
“I’m a bit gutted the season is coming to a close now as we are starting to play some positive football and have been getting a few decent results but credit to Sutherland because if they had had a few of their missing players on the pitch tonight they would have been more of a threat to us because they are great players.
“Stanno (Sharks coach Robbie Stanton) has them playing great football and congratulations to them if they go on to win the title this season, they deserve it.
“For us to come here and frustrate them the way we did and then to be two minutes away from taking all the points is tough but we have to take the positives of the result and keep going”.
On playing football rather than kick and rush he adds:
“I can’t lump the ball long as I have lads who want to play football and I was always led to believe that football is a game that should be played on the ground and we always try to play football that way, and so do Sutherland, and if I had a Panni Nikas in my side I reckon we would have more goals in us.
“We’ve got a small squad of 14 or 15 players and they know they are there but I’ve already said we need another 4 or 5 to take that next step and challenge the top teams as we always seem to do well against the top sides but it’s hard to score goals and it’s hard to get strikers at the club.
“In saying that, we feel we have enough quality going forward but sometimes we lack that little bit in the final third and sometimes our choices are not the best.”
Robbie Stanton replied for the Sharks when stating:
“Nervy is probably the best word to describe our performance tonight and there was a lot at stake and we probably trod too carefully and the instructions wasn’t to go out there tonight and play with caution.
“I thought in the first-half we created a couple of very good chances and probably the better of the chances in reality and I felt comfortable that we were not going to concede a goal but we just needed to make better choices and get more bodies in the way in the right areas and we didn’t do that at times.
“I’m screaming at players off the bench and in training to do certain things and when it comes to game time they choose the wrong option or do something we don’t work on and that is what annoys me if anything annoys me out of the game.”
It was a horrendous goal to give away with the lapse in defence by Perry Moustakas however Stanton continues:
“It was a one in a thousand mistake made by a very experienced and talented player who isn’t likely to do that again in the next five seasons but I threw on two young kids (Jordan Roberts and Jordan Hughes) plus Lukas Stergiou from the start, and they get us a goal so it shows the passion and talent at this club.
“Maybe some of the players felt a bit of pressure in this situation but we got a point and that point may be very valuable in next week’s game against Rockdale City Suns but we’ll have to wait and see.
“We know we have to go out next week and win to be assured of winning the league so it’s in our own hands and we’ll prepare for that during the week and go into that match with the right attitude and see what happens.”
Match Stats
Sutherland Sharks FC 1 (Koulizakis 90’+2’)

Manly United FC 1 (Oates 54)
Saturday 10th August 2013
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Referee: Andrew Higgins
Assistant Referees: Sarah Ho and Nathan Wotton
Fourth Official: Samuel Grasso
Sutherland Sharks FC: 1.Nathan Denham; 2.Nick Littler, 3.Michael Stuart, 6.Matthew Gordon (4.James McKenzie 46’), 7.Nathan Elasi, 10.Jamie McMaster, 13.Reo Morinaga (8.Jordan Hughes 76’), 14.Nick Stavroulakis (C), 15.Perry Moustakas, 17.Klim Gjorseski (18.Jayden Koulizakis 83’), 32.Lukas Stergiou
Substitutes Not Used: 22.Andrew Depta, 30.Jordan Roberts
Yellow Cards: Jamie McMaster 41’, Nathan Elasi 83’
Red Cards: Nil
Manly United FC: 1.Dylan Mitchell; 2.Leigh Egger, 4.Graeme Forbes (C), 5.Joshua Lawson, 6.Daniel Grant (10.Colin Iley 51’), 7.Scott Balderson (18.Tanashe Mugabe 71’), 11.Matthew Sim, 12.Brendan Cholakian, 14.David Cain, 15.James Oates (30.Jack Green 80’), 16.Josh Ward
Substitutes Not Used: 20.Tonu Liiband
Yellow Cards: James Oates 39’, Josh Ward 63’
Red Cards: Nil
-By Micky Brock