Magic show never unfolded at Arlington

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

NSW PS4 MEN – State League 1 – Round 20 feature game
3pm, Sunday 9th August, 2015 – Arlington Oval, Dulwich Hill

Stanmore Hawks FC 3 (Neil Philippou 16′ pen, Costa Bakoulis 71′, Sam Awad 72′)
Gladesville Ryde Magic FC 0

Stanmore Hawks have been making something of a habit of winning matches 3-0, though one or two were only 1-0 as well, as they remain on the cusp of a Finals’ series appearance, having been written off earlier in the season as mere strugglers and unlikely contenders for the end-of-season high-jinx.

Once or twice, especially when midfield veteran, Sam Awad, has been missing, they’ve struggled a little, notably against fellow Arlington Oval tenants, Dulwich Hill, who’ve also made vast improvement during the second-half of the season, but even when faced with a very capable Gladesville Ryde Magic, on Sunday afternoon, they took the visiting team in their stride and posted yet another three goals, with a clean sheet to help them improve their all-important goal difference.

They beat strugglers, Nepean FC, here 3-0 at the end of July, which came after a morale-boosting 1-0 win over Inter-Lions at Fraser Park, although they’d been beaten convincingly 2-0 by Balmain Tigers on their own ground earlier in the month.

Balmain also went on to beat Dulwich Hill on the same Arlington Oval pitch by the same score of 2-0, so with the Tigers in FFA Cup Round-of-32 form, those results were no disgrace for either Marrickville-area club.

The Hawks had begun their solid string of wins with a 1-0 result up at Hawkesbury, the 1-0 win hard-earned against a very much improved outer-suburban side.

Arlington Oval has been the scene of some titanic tussles for the Hawks of late, a last gasp loss to North Shore Mariners and a tough 1-1 draw with Dulwich Hill significant signs of imminent improvement.

Here, against Gladesville Ryde Magic, whose coach is overseas and whose first-grade team is being looked after in a Caretaker capacity by Yannis Sievas, Stanmore never looked like losing, after taking an early lead from the penalty spot.

There was nothing that Magic captain and former Olympiakos and PAOK goalkeeper, Kiriakos Tohouroglou, could do to deny accomplished and long-established Hawks’ striker. Neil Philippou, from adding to his impressive tally of goals from the penalty mark, after the team’s lone front-runner had been up-ended well inside the penalty-area, as he bore down on goal from the right, a little over a quarter of an hour into the match.

With a few decent results of late Gladesville might have been expected to provide a stiff test for Stanmore, but the visitors were well off the pace on this occasion.

They were missing their main defender, sweeper John Rimmer, who had to sit out the game with  injury and while he was likely to miss only this one match, it could be a critical one, as the Magic look long-odds now to figure in the Finals, after being well-placed until a couple of weeks ago.

Losses here and at Nepean a few games before, have somewhat damaged their chances.

Stanmore still have work to do, of course, as most of the top spots are already spoken for.

North Shore Mariners waltzed away with the First Grade title a couple of weeks ago and despite a few losses Rydalmere Lions, with a game in hand, appear to have a mortgage on second-place.

Dulwich Hill have put their own stamp on third-place, after some consistent performances, while Hills Brumbies have shaken off a spell of poor outcomes to re-emerge as Finals contenders and currently cling on as a narrow fourth.

Stanmore’s other main rivals will be Balmain Tigers, who dropped points against Inter-Lions last weekend, but after this loss Gladesville are two points further away, behind the Hawks.

With two rounds to play, Stanmore know that their visit to Mudgee to play Western NSW Mariners on Saturday will define their season.

Those Western Mariners have slid well down the ladder, after posing a strong challenge during the first-half of the season, but Hawks’ coach, Sotiris Mavrou, is sweating on having his best eleven available on Saturday afternoon in the Central West, as his players are part- timers and he needs a full squad to be ready for action, with a few players figuring out how to clear pressing work commitments in order to play.

None more so than brilliant Korean, Heo Wookbum, the tricky wingman who Mavrou snapped up after seeing him trial before the last transfer window in June.

“We didn’t know who he was, when he came down to try out,” the Stanmore coach said.

“All we knew was that he lived here in Sydney and had played in Tasmania.

“He’s really showing us what he can do now and he looks a very good prospect.

Wookbum was on fire against Gladesville, tearing down the left flank with abandon and carving up openings all afternoon.

But Stanmore owe as much to their backline as anything, a solid defensive combination that lends the midfield the opportunity to get forward at every opportunity.

On this occasion Stanmore skipper, Steve Liavas, mostly used in central midfield these days, was right in the thick of things and free to roam, with his highly-experienced sidekick, Sam Awad, bossing it alongside him and giving the Magic opposition very few openings.

With Hills Brumbies playing Rydalmere Lions at the Sydney United Sports Centre this coming Saturday afternoon, a difficult assignment and Gladesville up against North Shore Mariners at Northbridge Oval the next day, Stanmore has a very real chance of snatching that elusive fourth spot, as Hills face Dulwich Hill in the last round at Lily’s Football Centre, while Stanmore’s opponents on the final day at Arlington will be Rydalmere, who are struggling to score enough goals of late, especially when Lloyd Ewosu is unavailable, which is quite often at the moment.

But getting back to this game, Stanmore had little to worry about after they’d taken the lead.

Gladesville were looking for openings, but few presented themselves and although they were able to win some corners in the first-half and went close twice, generally speaking it was not their day.

Stanmore might have extended their lead just before the break, when from Philippou’s corner from the right Wookbum headed just wide, after a similar attempt by Daniel Doritis had gone close as well.

Gladesville’s best effort during that period was a header over the bar by Stephen Lloyd, from Alastair McKie’s corner in the 41st  and Lachlan Harte’s volley from another McKie pass, as the winger made a run through down the left, producing an effort that James Webb did well to save.

Two goals within a minute sounded the death-knell to Gladesville’s chances, however, with the determined Costa Bakoulis and Sam Awad striking in the 71st and 72nd.

The first of those goals resulted from a neat exchange of passes between Liavas and Bakoulis, with the latter working his way through from the right to slide the ball under the exposed keeper.

The second came after Wookbum did well to set up Sam Awad with a through pass, that the shrewd midfielder finished clinically, giving the again left-alone keeper no chance.

Five minutes into stoppage-time Gladesville were denied a consolation goal, as substitute Peter Yannopoulos exploded away down the right and then tried a shot that skidded away past the left-hand upright.

It was too little and far too late.

Match details

Crowd:  approx 50

Stanmore Hawks FC: GK 26 James Webb; 23 Peter Theodosi, 17 Daniel Doritis, 4 Angelo Petratos, 5 Yorgi Mavrou;  6 Costa Bakoulis, 2 Foday Kamara (3 Neil O’Sullivan 78), 7 Steve Liavas (C) (43 John Sotiropoulos 82), 8 Sam Awad,  41 Heo Wookbum;  9 Neil Philippou (11 Christian Ekwerike 70)
Subs not used: RGK 31 James Adams, 39 Tainan Masch Marchiori

Coach: Soteris Mavrou
Yellow cards: Peter Theodosi 28, Yorgi Mavrou 70, Neil O’Sullivan 80; Red cards: Nil

Gladesville Ryde Magic FC: GK 33 Kiriakos Tohouroglou (C); 8 John Martinez, 13 Benjamin Kerr,  6 Todd Nelson, 16 Ryan Parry; 2 Chris Gaitatzis, 10 Alistair McKie, 18 Paolo Cianci, 11 Lachlan Harte; 9 Majid Eslami (14 Peter Yannopoulos 76), 12 Stephen Lloyd
Subs not used: RGK 42 Chris Paradisis, 23 Dimitrios Tomaras,  26 Ares Popotos, 28 Mitchell Cooper

Caretaker-Coach: Yannis Sievas
Yellow cards: Paolo Cianci 69, Alistair McKie 77; Red cards: Nil

Referee: Adam Weir
Assistants: Paul Farnhill and Keith Yau

Ratings and miscellaneous

Match 6/10
Pitch: 10/10 (Synthetic)
Weather: Sunny and mild, light breeze

Players noted: Steve Liavas (SH), Sam Awad (SH), Heo Wookbum (SH), Costa Bakoulis (SH), Alastair McKie (GRM), John Martinez (GRM)