SOUTH Coast Flame, which includes Shoalhaven Heads/Berry’s Matt White amd Culburra’s Martin Thompson, hosted Club Championship leading Bankstown United on Saturday afternoon, with the visitors claiming the three points on offer in first grade thanks to a strong start to the match.
(min cost $8)
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The visitors got off to an electric start with two goals in the opening eight minutes.
The first came through Jovan Miladinovic after two minutes, the number seven’s cross-come-shot deceived Matt White and snuck inside the far post.
United capitalised on a defensive mix up six minutes later with the State League’s leading marksman Mitch Cross on hand to poach his seventh goal of the season.
Bankstown continued to pile on the pressure and could have had a third with 20 minutes played.
Cross managed to pick out an unmarked Toshihisa Saikawara in the box but the attackers mishit shot dribbled to the right.
10 minutes from half-time, Sean Robertson worked his way into the box and his powerful drive forced a solid one hand stop from White before the ball was cleared away.
In the minute before the interval, Andrew Lazarou made an agricultural challenge on Martin Thompson which saw the referee reach for his yellow card.
It was his second booking of the match which would mean United would have to defend their two-goal lead a man down in the second half.
Flame had their first clear-cut opportunity inside the opening two minutes of the second half.
Matt Mazevski linked up with Bojan Caric on the edge of the area and the latter's shot was well held by David Hamilton in the United goal.
South Coast came close to pulling a goal back through a string of set pieces starting in the 55th minute when Dion Sterjovski found fellow winger Julio Mushaba at the back post off a corner but his header went wide of the target.
A minute later, Andrew Christie directed a corner towards goal, Caric was about to nod the ball home from close range but a desperate piece of defending saw the ball cleared for another corner.
With an hour played, Mazevski had a free kick on the right touchline which he swung in for Mushaba at the near post but the youngster's effort missed the target once again.
From the resulting goal kick, Bankstown launched a counter which ended up with the ball being cut back to Saikawa in the middle of the box but his strike forced a stunning point-blank save from White.
A minute later Shannon Hankin had two attempts on goal, the first effort was parried by White, Hankin pounced on the follow-up but White was able to make another smart stop, keeping his side in the hunt.
With 10 minutes remaining, Flame had a glorious chance to pull a goal back. Sterjovski’s strike was parried wide by Hamilton, however, Caric was able to chip the ball back into the box for Caleb Grace who had made a smart dash into the area but the but the young midfielder skied his shot well over the goal.
In the 85th minute, South Coast finally breached the determined United defence. Second half substitute Cameron Hanson scrambled into the box and managed to strike the ball past Hamilton and give the home side a late lifeline.
Flame pushed for a winner in the final few minutes of play, the best opportunity would fall for Hanson but his 90th-minute strike would blaze over the bar.
The full-time whistle sounded with United winning the match 2-1.
After the match, coach Paul Robaard lamented his side’s second slow start in as many weeks.
“We were too slow off the mark and we conceded two early goals, similar to what happened against UNSW,” he said.
However, like the UNSW match, he was encouraged by the side’s second-half display.
"The boys nearly came back into it, we got the goal, could have had two or three and come away with a result,” he said.
Flame will look to dust themselves off ahead of two matches in the space of five days, first of which is a trip to Gissing Oval to take on bottom of the table Wagga City Wanderers.
This will be followed by a visit to Progress Park on Anzac Day to play the round one catch-up match with FC Gazy Auburn.
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