A much improved Sutherland Sharks put up a good fight against Blacktown City, but were powerless to stop the juggernaut in a 1-0 defeat at Seymour Shaw Park on Saturday afternoon.
It was that man again, Travis Major who netted the only goal of the game, his sixth since coming back from overseas a few weeks ago, after being set up by substitute Charles Mendy midway through the second half, to side-foot home in a frustrating afternoon for the visitors.
Jason Madonis hit a superb volley from the edge of the area in just the 4th minute that Alex Robinson, the young teenage ‘keeper having a stellar season for Blacktown, pulled off a spectacular save to keep the ball out. It was sweetly struck but the young gloveman got across to palm the ball out for a corner.
Mario Shabow played in Mitch Mallia who couldn’t connect with a decent touch and the effort was easily dealt with by Anthony Bouzanis, who appeared to strain himself in the process and required treatment on the pitch but was able to continue.
Blacktown were slowly gaining the ascendancy and started to ask many questions of the Sharks’ defence, all of which they had the answers for to date as they maintained their shape under growing pressure.
It was a gritty performance from the two sides however a distinct lack of goalmouth action was telling with so much at stake for both sides.
Lukman Ahmed-Shaibu eventually worked some space on the edge of the area and spotted Madonis free on the right of the box, but the half-volley this time was well wide of the mark from the Sutherland playmaker.
Mallia broke and played the ball out wide to Shabow whose step-over beat the Sharks’ defence for Major to head back across goal for Mallia. His header was somehow kept out by a combination of inspiration and desperation before being scrambled clear of danger.
Blacktown broke from a Sutherland corner, creating a four-on-three scenario. Mallia slipped in Shabow who slipped by his marker and fired a centre across the face of the goal with no teammate able to make contact in the 36th minute, before Grant Lynch saw his header slide agonisingly wide of the upright.
Dakota Askew shot over near the end of the half as another half-chance went begging for the visitors, but Sutherland were acquitting themselves well in keeping a resolute Blacktown attack at bay as it remained scoreless at the break.
Sutherland seemed to be frustrating City and it was becoming evident as the half came to a close.
With no changes at the break, but stern words in the dressing room, it was back to the action to see if a winner could be found.
Major and Askew combined to set up Mallia however his flick shot didn’t deceive the Sharks’ defence in the 50th minute and the opening goal still eluded the match.
Blacktown were going hard on the resumption in looking for the elusive goal that would take them to the top of the ladder, but the frustration was mounting as the minutes ticked by.
Sutherland were struggling to get out their half and Mallia forced another save out of Bouzanis with City mounting sustained pressure on their hosts.
Twice James Baldacchino cleared off the line in spectacular fashion to keep the visitors off the scoreboard.
An Askew free kick went straight through the wall but directly at the Sharks’ ‘keeper who comfortably held.
Substitute Charles Mendy, on for barely four minutes when replacing inspirational skipper Matty Lewis, beat Baldacchino to the ball and centred for Major to side-foot home his sixth of the season in the 69th minute to give the visitors a deserved, but hard-fought, lead.
Shabow forced a desperate block from Baldacchino, a stand out for Sutherland on the day, with Bouzanis saving Major’s follow.
With no addition to the scoreboard, Blacktown rose to the top of the ladder with the win, if only overnight depending on other results from the Sunday games.
Blacktown City coach Mark Crittenden was relieved to see his troops pull through with the gritty win over the Sharks.
“It was a very frustrating game for us today, particularly as we created a lot of half-chances.”
“We couldn’t get something on the end of it with plenty of ball in their six-yard box, a couple of goal-line clearances and the like and it was one of those afternoons when you just needed one to go in to get things started.
“We made the change, made the adjustment and got the winner and that’s very pleasing.
“We try and attack every game the same way regardless of if the result would take us top.
“Everyone knows who’s where on the ladder and how tight it is this season which is good for the league and the competition.
“Every game means something this season, particularly at this stage and we know we’ve just got to turn up next week and get the job done again to keep the momentum going.
“It’s always a tough place to come to [Seymour Shaw] but we found a way to win and put in a tough performance and you can’t ask for more than that.”
Even though it was a tough loss, Sutherland coach Steve Gordon was proud of his playing group post match.
“We always knew this was going to be a big game and that’s the third in six days for us.
“We had another couple of players pull out of an already thin squad this week but it was always going to be a big ask even with a full and fully fit squad.
“When you’ve had the week we’ve had and played three of the top teams, it was a gritty performance today and the boys put everything into it.
“They [Blacktown City] had the better of the chances and the 1-0 win was probably deserved but we battled and made them work for it.
“Credit to the boys, they didn’t give up but the last 20-minutes took its toll.”
Sutherland Sharks 0
Blacktown City 1 (Travis Major 69’)
Seymour Shaw, Miranda
Saturday 16th July 2022
Referee: Kelly Jones
Assistants: Maggie Price and Anastasia Filacouridis
Fourth Official: Manwel Limnios
Sutherland Sharks: 1. Anthony Bouzanis, 2. James Baldacchino, 6. Patrick O’Shea, 7. Evan Ball (14. Chris Lindsay 63’), 8. Jason Madonis, 9. Jeremy Cox (18. Mitch Smith 76’), 12. Lukman Ahmed-Shaibu (10. Lachlan Everett 95’), 17. James Andrew, 23. Mark Rodic, 25. Luke Sauer (22. Nick Sullivan 63’), 99. Lachlan MacDonald
Substitutes Not Used: 11. John Fotopoulos, 26. Jacob Cremen-Cowan
Yellow Cards: Nick Sullivan 80’
Red Cards: Nil
Blacktown City: 30. Alex Robinson, 3. Daniel Collins, 5. Grant Lynch, 6. Matthew Lewis (21. Charles Mendy 65’), 7. Travis Major, 8. Jak O’Brien, 10. Mario Shabow, 11. Mitch Mallia (89. Jordan Smylie 84’), 17. Dakota Askew, 19. Adam Berry (32. Hiroaki Aoyama 73’), 24. Jackson Bandiera
Substitutes Not Used: 16. Ben Berry, 40. Dylan Niski, 45. Danny Choi
Yellow Cards: Charles Mendy 80’
Red Cards: Nil
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Reporter Micky Brock