Blacktown City and Wollongong Wolves shared the spoils as the two battled for a 1-1 in Round 29 of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition at Landen Stadium.
In a classic game of two halves, it was fitting that both teams took home a point after Wollongong dominated the first half and Blacktown City the second.
Both goals arrived in the second stanza of play when Takumi Ofuka scored early for Wollongong before Carlos De Oliveira struck late for Blacktown City.
Wollongong Wolves almost took the lead in the 7th minute. A nice through ball by Chris McStay from midfield reached a galloping Jake Trew who proceeded to place his finish against the post with goalkeeper Cayden Henderson well beaten.
A few minutes later Alex Masciovecchio sliced his diagonal shot from the right just wide of the goal as the Wolves once again came close to breaking the early deadlock.
On the half-hour mark, Walter Scott came ever so close for the visitors after receiving a very long through ball from the back, but he was brilliantly denied by Henderson who turned the ball over the crossbar for a corner with a beautiful one-handed save.
Blacktown City replied almost immediately when captain Matthew Lewis, playing in his final home game for the club before retiring, crossed nicely from the left to Travis Major in the middle but his header was straight at goalkeeper Tomas Butkovic. It was the closest the home side had been up until that point in the encounter.
Wollongong were again denied just prior to the break by a brilliant save by Henderson with his feet. McStay won the ball in midfield and then found Lachlan Scott who in turn provided a delightful ball to Masciovecchio in the middle of the box, but the latter’s drive was well met by the Blacktown City custodian coming off his line to close the space.
Both sides entered the sheds shortly afterwards scoreless but in reality, Wollongong could have been at least a couple of goals up.
The first opportunity in the second stanza of play was the opening goal of the encounter and no surprise that it was Wollongong’s strike in the 49th minute. A sharp cross by Masciovecchio from the right reached Takumi Ofuka in the middle and the Japanese striker fired in from close range. It was all too simple as the home fans remained subdued in the stands.
In the 58th minute though Blacktown City had a great chance to equalise when a pinpoint accurate cross from the right by Tyren Burnie reached Jak O’Brien in the middle, but his header was only a fraction wide of the intended target.
On the turn from just outside the box in the 69th minute Major fired just wide for the home side as the men-in-black desperately tried to even the ledger.
In the 75th minute coach Mark Crittenden gave Lewis a rest and the captain of the home side made his way to the bench to a wonderful ovation from the home fans, who have truly appreciated a superb playing career at Blacktown City going back to when he started in the Under 10’s.
In the 85th minute Carlos De Oliveira couldn’t control his volley on the run and fired over from very close range after receiving a great cross by Major charging down the right flank.
A minute later Major was once again provider with a long cross from the right which reached Burnie in the box, but his header finished against the post.
Right at the death in regular time Blacktown City did indeed equalise. Almost from nothing, the ball made its way into the middle where De Oliveira slotted home through a crowded box to the delight of the home faithful.
After the game Blacktown City coach Mark Crittenden praised his team.
“We were a bit flat in the first half but, at the end of the day, we got what we deserved [a point],” he said.
“In the second half we conceded early which isn’t good enough, but we showed our quality and showed our desire to get back. We could have snuck a late one and got away with the game too.
“It’s been a great season to be in the top three and every other year we would be playing in a final series with a finish like that, but this year we are not. We will turn up next week to Rockdale and try to win and maintain our undefeated run.”
His counterpart David Carney of Wollongong Wolves was also praiseworthy of his young team.
“Two points got away from us which is the same as last week,” he said.
“I thought we were excellent especially in the first half. To come to a hard place like Blacktown, against a team in great form and for us to play the way we did, I thought was excellent.
“I said to the lads at the end that I was really proud of them, but we really have to take our chances and the game should have been put to bed for us much earlier.
“We are now seventh which is in the top half, and I think it has been an excellent season considering where we finished last year. It’s a completely new team and a very young team, and to perform the way we have has been great.”
BLACKTOWN CITY: 1 (De Oliveira 89’)
WOLLONGONG WOLVES: 1 (Ofuka 49’)
Sunday 20th August 2023
Landen Stadium, Seven Hills
Referee: Karl Davies
Assistant Referees: James Makris and Arinath Gobinath
Fourth Official: Blake Sanchez-Cruz
BLACKTOWN CITY FC: 20. Cayden Henderson, 4. Lachlan Campbell, 5. Grant Lynch (16. Ben Berry 70’), 6. Matthew Lewis (14. Caleb Jackson-Brown 75’), 7. Travis Major, 8. Jak O’Brien, 9. Reuben Awaritefe (22. Carlos De Oliveira 46’), 10. Mario Shabow, 12. Tyren Burnie, 18. Nicholas O’Brien, 19. Adam Berry.
Substitutes not used: 1. Brodie Denton, 15. Ignacio Palacios Corral.
Yellow Cards: Major 89’, A. Berry 93’
Red Cards: Nil
WOLLONGONG WOLVES FC: 13. Tomas Butkovic, 5. Banri Kanaizumi, 7. Marcus Beattie, 8. Samuel Risk, 9. Takumi Ofuka, 14. Jake Trew, 21. Ethan Beavan, 23. Walter Scott, 24. Lachlan Scott, 25. Alex Masciovecchio (11. Nav Daniel 75’), 88. Chris McStay.
Substitutes not used: 1. Nenad Vekic, 4. Dax Kelly, 6. Senna Stevenson, 10. Damon Gray, 99. Sebastain Hernandez.
Yellow Cards: L. Scott 25’, Beavan 64’, Risk 88’, W. Scott 92
Red Cards: Nil
3 – Marcus Beattie (WW)
2 – Alex Masciovecchio (WW)
1 – Travis Major (BC)
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s reporter Joe Russo