Blacktown battle to victory over Manly United
By Chris Curulli
A second-half penalty from Blacktown City captain Matthew Lewis earned the visitors a hard-fought three points against Manly United at Cromer Park on Saturday night.
Despite many positive moments, in a similar story to their previous encounter Manly failed to take advantage of their periods of dominance.
A scrappy opening ten minutes set the tone for a tight first half where neither side seriously threatened their opponent’s penalty area.
Manly were marginally brighter early on, however the only opportunity they were able to create was a speculative long-range effort from Scott Balderson which sailed over the crossbar.
Blacktown showcased their customary defensive solidity however struggled to penetrate a similarly stubborn Manly back four.
The second half saw proceedings begin to open up with a handful of opportunities for both sides.
The evening’s first clear sight on goal arrived after 54 minutes as Dejan Pandurevic tricked his way past his marker and rattled the palms of Prendergast from close range.
Then after being majorly subdued during the first period, former Manly flyer Charles Mendy placed his stamp on the contest.
The attacker was released in behind after 62 minutes, and after charging through on goal he was brought down by the outstretched leg of Manly skipper Sam Gallagher.
Lewis’ spot kick sent Dylan Mitchell the wrong way as he calmly slotted home into the bottom right corner.
Mendy continued to haunt his former club as moments later he found himself through again, but his low strike was denied by a smart Mitchell save.
The visitors almost doubled their lead on 73 minutes as Adam Berry’s long rang rocket flew narrowly wide of the top right corner.
Manly then began to push hard for an elusive equaliser as substitute Richie Cardozo’s in-swinging corner was tipped over the crossbar by Tristan Prendergast.
Paul Dee’s other substitution almost paid dividends as Jamie Glover’s flick-on at the near post was scrambled wide.
The hosts so nearly snatched a point at the death from the boot of Brendan Cholakian, however the tricky midfielder’s long-range strike was deflected over the bar.
Cholakian’s following corner evaded everyone inside the crowded Blacktown penalty area, only to drift agonisingly wide of the back post.
For the second week running, Paul Dee was left frustrated with the final outcome.
“We had our chances to win that game and we didn’t take them,” he reflected.
“Credit to Blacktown, they were resilient and converted their chance from the penalty.
“We are certainly creating enough opportunities in the final third but haven’t been able to get that decisive final touch.
“I think the brand of football we are playing is quite good and there’s a few positives coming out but those are two similar stories from our first two weeks.”
On the other hand Blacktown boss Mark Crittenden was understandably delighted with the gutsy result and warned his side still possess plenty of room for improvement.
“We always try and work hard and keep ourselves organised,” he said.
“Cromer is always a hard place to come to and we knew Manly would be very physical and fit.
“To the boys’ credit we made some adjustments and they played dividends.
“Charles Mendy up front won us the penalty that won us the game.
“It’s been solid but we still have massive improvement to come don’t worry about that. We are nowhere near where we want to be yet.”
Manly United will continue their search for competition points next week at home to Sydney United 58 on Saturday night.