Round 12 of Football NSW League Two Men’s saw the race for promotion and top spot heat up, with plenty of thrilling action across the state.
Our match of the round saw Dulwich Hill hold off a determined Sydney University side in a tough battle.
Elsewhere in the league, Central Coast continued its home winning streak against Macarthur, Gladesville gained three crucial points against Bankstown United, with Rydalmere punishing Bankstown City.
Dunbar Rovers held off Inner West Hawks, as Inter Lions left it late to beat Canterbury Bankstown.
Match of the Round: Sydney University SFC 1-2 Dulwich Hill FC
Dulwich Hill have held off a persistent Sydney University side, adding to their six-game unbeaten run.
The visitors started off the game in an impressive fashion, looking dangerous in attack whilst shutting down Uni in attack.
Harry Browell’s stunning half volley opened the scoring in the 28th minute and separated the sides going into the break.
Uni answered back on the heels of some solid attacking pressure in the 62nd minute through Caelan Hickson, before Alexander Nicolosi bagged the winner in the 78th minute.
Dulwich opened proceedings on the front foot, putting Uni deep in their half in the opening minutes and finding themselves in some promising attacking areas.
Zac Riberio came closest to opening the scoring, after Daniel Fornito laid a perfect ball off to him, only to be denied by Anthony Costa.
The visitors found themselves in prime position for an opener when Emmanuel Zervas played Ben Hayes through on goal, with Hayes knocking it past the keeper and with an open net ahead of him the linesman raised his flag for offside.
The early pressure finally paid off for Dulwich Hill in the 23rd minute, when Browell was sent through on goal and hammered in his chance on the half-volley.
Fornito came within inches of the second goal moments later when his curling effort just went past the post.
After dominating the opening half an hour, Uni struggled to find a way back into the game with Dulwich Hill looking strong as a defensive unit.
Heading into the break, Dulwich Hill had all of the confidence and momentum to find three points and were determined to add more goals to their tally.
The hosts came out of halftime with a point to prove and looked rejuvenated upon the restart.
Peter Crevani looked to level the score for Uni, after Thomas McCoubrie cut a cross in for him, with his shot being desperately denied by the Dulwich Hill backline.
In the opening minutes of the second half, it was clear to see the momentum had firmly swung in favour of the hosts as they began to look likely for an equaliser.
Uni levelled proceedings in the 62nd minute, with Fletcher Williamson perfectly picking out Caelan Hickson at the near post for Uni’s first goal.
With the momentum in their corner, Uni began to push and were nearly rewarded when Thomas Quilligan found Crevani through on goal only for his shot to narrowly go wide.
Dulwich were almost immediately back in the lead, after Fornito’s powerful long range-effort fell through the gloves of Costa but not as far as his legs, with the Uni shot stopper saving his blushes.
Uni were gifted a golden chance to go into the lead, after an incredible solo run from Quilligan saw him glide past five defenders only to be taken down in the box.
With the referee pointing to the penalty spot, Crevani stepped up and was sensationally denied by Ryan Wood.
Dulwich Hill regathered momentum on the back of the save and found themselves back in the lead shortly after.
It was once again Riberio was a piercing long-range effort that forced Costa into a save, but the ball fortunately fell straight Nicolosi with a near open net.
After having the game flipped on its head, Uni were determined to walk away with at least a point, pushing everyone forward in the final minutes.
Williamson was nearly the hero for Uni, after Costa sent a ball directly into the headed path only for his shot to narrowly go over.
The visitors held on for a spirited win, but one that Uni will have to feel devastated about.
Dulwich Hill coach, Paris Svilicich admitted it was a difficult encounter but was proud of his sides response.
“It was a challenge, it’s always a tough place to come to, we did well to win but we made it hard for ourselves early in the second half and we obviously could have been punished,” he said.
“The players coming off the bench gave us a boost and we were good enough to win… in the first half we had multiple chances, second half until they scored we were very hesitant, possibly the boys were thinking about protecting the lead.
“Ryan [Wood] made a great save from the penalty and we were able to respond, we dominated and could have had another one at the end and it’s a good win for us.”
Central Coast United FC 2-1 Macarthur Rams FC
Central Coast United has secured its fifth straight win at home, this time taking down Macarthur Rams at Pluim Park.
The hosts classy first half display was enough to ensure they would be able to hold out the Rams second half efforts.
United opened the game with a strong intensity, beating the Rams to the ball and putting them on the backfoot.
Captain Daniel McFarlane opened the scoring in an incredible fashion, putting the hosts in the lead with a goal of the year contender.
The first half display was capped off with a targeted shot from Yuki Morikawa which deflected in to double United’s lead.
After a flat first half, the Rams came out of the break and began to match the intensity of Central Coast and found success with a goal in the first half.
It was Mitchell Brooker who got off the board with his first goal for the club and crucially gave the Rams a lifeline.
United were too strong in the end and held on for another strong win at Pluim Park.
The Rams now return home to host Sydney Uni in Round 12, as United travel to Jensen Park to face Bankstown City.
Bankstown United FC 0-2 Gladesville Ryde Magic
Gladesville Ryde Magic have secured three crucial points over fellow promotion hopefuls Bankstown United.
Although it was only a Round 12 fixture, there was a feeling this match could have big implications for both sides’ seasons depending on the results.
The game started in a back and forth manner, with Steve Bruce and Kiriakos Tohouroglou coming out as stars in the opening half hour by denying the multiple attempts at their goals.
The game blew open in the finals minutes of the first half, with the visitors gaining the upper hand with two crucial goals.
Daniel Rigby opened the scoring after beating his man and riffling his shot home into the corner of the net.
Just moments later Chris Gaitatzis added to his tally for the year with a neatly placed header to send his side up by two goals heading into the break.
With the game slipping away from them in a matter of minutes, United searched for an answer in the second half and were determined to fight back.
United had the better of the chances in the second half but were wasteful in their chances and ultimately paid the price.
With Steve Wright celebrating his 100th game for the club, they were unable to celebrate the historic appearance with a win.
United now travel to face Dunbar Rovers in Round 12, as the Magic head into a packed schedule with a midweek match with Berries before hosting Inner West Hawks on Sunday.
Rydalmere Lions FC 6-2 Bankstown City FC
After suffering two straight defeats, Rydalmere have bounced back in the best way possible with a 6-2 victory over Bankstown City.
Rydalmere undoubtedly put in their best performance of the season and undoing the usually strong defence of City.
It was the visitors who opened the scoring after breaking through the Rydalmere defence, but it was only a matter of minutes before the hosts answered back.
Two quick penalties awarded to Rydalmere saw them take the lead, with Matt West finding himself with a quickfire brace.
Rydalmere found themselves ahead with a third goal after converting from a corner, capping off a successful opening half hour of the game.
City had their chances in the backend of the half but were unable to capitalise, resulting in the 3-1 halftime score.
Rydalmere continued their pursuit in the second half, with West adding a fourth and finishing off his hat-trick early in the second half.
Ahmed Taleb finished off a great bit of play from Ali McKie to get Rydalmere their fifth, shortly before he secured a brace, finishing off a rebounded Jake Chidiac shot.
City got a late goal to put the deficit to just four, on what was a disappointing night for the finals contender.
Rydalmere now move their attention to a blockbuster clash with Inter Lions next week, as City host the in-form Central Coast
Inner West Hawks FC 0-1 Dunbar Rovers FC
Dunbar Rovers have secured their second consecutive win without conceding a goal, taking down the Inner West Hawks.
It was almost a carbon copy of the Round one meeting between the sides, with another tight affair, only this time Dunbar’s clinical nature in front of goals secured them three points.
Conor Salter had the visitors off to a dream start, with his goal in the 8th minute that ignited a period of dominance for the Rovers.
Dunbar continued to push in the first half, but were met by a resistant Hawks defence that allowed them to stay in the game.
Although Dunbar enjoyed more success in the first, the game was still there for the taking and the Hawks looked determine to repeat what happened in round one.
With a much more composed feel to the game in the second half, Inner West looked promising in attack and were coming close to a goal with a few chances.
However, the defensive improvements shown by the Rovers in the last couple of weeks came to the front as they ensured a second-straight clean sheet.
The win for Dunbar was crucial as they know sit three points ahead of the tightly stacked bottom half of the top eight.
Inner West travel to Christie Park in Round 12, as Dunbar look to make it three in a row when they host Bankstown United.
Canterbury Bankstown FC 2-3 Inter Lions FC
Inter Lions ended the round with another win, putting themselves three points clear at the top of League Two.
In tricky playing conditions at the Crest Athletic centre, both sides struggled to get off the mark and had to adapt to the conditions.
It was the Lions who struck first, with Owen Duke finishing off a skilful bit of build-up play from Lawrence Hanna in the 25th minute.
The sides went back and forth in search of control in possession, as the half came to a close with Inter up by a goal.
The action rapidly began in the second half and set the tone for a wild final 45 minutes of play.
Bonmyeong Koo and Cian Mcnamara scored in the quick succession to sensationally put the Berries in the lead at the hour mark of the game.
However, the hosts were dealt a massive blow when Angelo Pezzano was sent off for a second yellow-card that instantly gave Inter the momentum.
Only three minutes after being reduced to ten-men, Berries conceded to Daniel Georgievski putting Inter back at level pegging.
Canterbury Bankstown attempted to hold on with ten-men and were looking likely to hold on for the draw, but as Inter do, they found a way to win.
It was Nathan Rayner who was the hero for Inter, coming up clutch in the final minutes of play to secure the three points and top spot for another week.
Inter will now be tested again as they face second place Rydalmere next week, as Canterbury Bankstown face Gladesville Ryde and Dulwich Hill in the next seven days.
By Football NSW Men’s League Two Writer, Dominic Criniti @DominicCriniti