Adam Griffith has not been backward in coming forward regarding his team’s deficiencies this National Premier League season; sugar-coating things is not the man’s way. It means, conversely, that his praise comes from the same honest place. And when he says his team is “never defeated” it means they’ll fight until the referee says to stop.
That’s what happened on Sunday night at Rockdale-Illenden Sports Centre when Manly United scored a 94th minute equaliser to come away with a point against Sydney FC. In a thrilling finale to the Round 17 fixture, a cracking volley by replacement Scott Balderson levelled the scores 2-2 and crushed the home team.
“We kept pushing for a result,” Griffith told Football NSW media.
“We were never defeated in that game because we kept the pressure up and we put our players in a position to score.”
Though in-form Luca Kmet twice went close in the first half, Sydney FC opened the scoring in the 31st minute. The home team extended their lead ten minutes after half-time and the skilful, speedy youngsters looked set for an upset.
A diving header by Dejan Pandurevic in the 61st minute gave United momentum.
And from there it was effectively bombs away.
There was a brilliant volley from outside the box by Dom Ferguson that drew an equally brilliant diving save. Ten minutes later Ferguson drilled another shot on goal, only for the goalkeeper to thwart him again.
After a leg-sapping midweek FFA Cup loss to Sydney Olympic, in which the 10-man home team ran hard all night, Griffith rang the changes.
And United kept coming.
“The type of work rate that I expect from my team is quite high. So we made some changes at halftime to get some more energy back into the team,” Griffith said.
It worked. Deep into injury time, Kieran Paull fired on goal, the ball desperately deflected by the post. From the ensuing corner kick Balderson launched his spectacular volley and United won a praiseworthy point.
Sydney FC 2 (Hollman 31’, Girdwood-Reich 54’)
Manly United 2 (Pandurevic 61’, Balderson 94’)
Sunday 20th June 2021
Illinden Sports Centre, Rockdale
Referee: Michael Weiner
Assistant Referees: A.McConachie, E.Kocbek
Fourth Official: H.Al-Nakeeb
SYDNEY FC: 1.Levi Kaye, 2.Cameron Fong, 3.Aaron Gurd, 5.Thomas Fay, 11.Adrian Segecic (7.Aidan Simmons 84’), 12.Jake Girdwood-Reich, 13.Clayton Taylor (10.Jaiden Kucharski 62’), 17.Jayden Trenkoski (32.Kai Kamikura 46’), 18.Oscar Priestman (8.Patrick Yazbek 62’), 19.Joseph Calusic, 33.Corey Hollman.
Substitutes not used: 60.Max Vartuli.
Yellow Cards: Trenkoski 41’, Hollman 93’
Red Card: Nil
MANLY UNITED FC: 1.Jacob Madden, 2.Kieren Paull, 3.James Georgaklis (5.Sam Gallagher 46’), 10.Richie Cardozo (8.Dave Ferguson 61’), 12.Luca Kmet (13.Scott Balderson), 14.Dejan Pandurevic, 15.Jesse Piriz, 16.Seiya Kambayashi, 18.Lucas Rainbird, 24.Finn Ashton (9.Benjamin Koop), 31.Ben Gibson (7.Jack Fulton 84’).
Substitutes not used: 25.Harry Aquilina
Yellow Cards: Trenkoski 41’ Hollman 93’
Red Card: Nil