Unanderra remained in the hunt for the league championship thanks to a pulsating 4-3 win at home to Helensburgh.

The Hearts raced out to a 3-0 lead inside 20 minutes before the visitors pulled level by halftime with the help of a Ben Watts brace.

Unanderra sealed the three points midway through the second half when Dominic Magill bagged his second of the afternoon.

The opening goal came in the 12th minute when Joel Perry’s corner found the head of second-tier top scorer Mark Picciolini with the Unanderra marksman’s effort unable to be kept out by Matt Wardle.

Magill had a gilt-edged chance a couple of minutes later when he toed a knockdown over, however, in the 19th minute, he doubled the Hearts lead when he directed another Perry goal-bound with the ball taking a heavy deflection of Dylan Croker.

Before Helensburgh could regather themselves Unanderra had another with Scott Bridge cutting back to the unmarked Picciolini who buried his shot into the bottom left corner. 

The Thistle lifted themselves off the ropes to mount a stirring comeback with Ben Watts netting in the 25th and 35th minute with his first being a pinpoint volley past Brandon Groom. 

Helensburgh had a shot headed off the line by Brendan Rielly in between their first two strikes, but the third goal would eventually come through Thistle’s leading scorer Kade Kinsella in the 37th minute.

Unanderra recaptured the lead with an hour on the clock when Magill was afforded time and space to stroll to the edge of the Helensburgh area before curling the ball into the bottom right corner. 

Scott Bridge came close to scoring the Hearts fifth when Magill cut back to the wideman before he blasted it into the crossbar. The ball then floated to Picciolini who bicycled it to Magill who missed from inside the six-yard box but the midfielder’s blushes were spared somewhat with the flag being raised for offside.

Unanderra had a number of chances to increase their advantage in final 20 minutes with Picciolini having a header go just wide, Magill having a shot blocked on the line by Croker and Bridge connecting with the upright. 

Helensburgh almost snatched a point in the dying stages when Groom nearly spilt the ball into his own net in the 85th minute while as the clock ticked into injury time, Brad Strudwick had a surge down the left with his shot flashing across the goal.

The victory keeps Unanderra a point behind the leading pair of Picton and Oak Flats. 

Unanderra coach Rod Williams felt his side deserved the win on the balance of play and said that while it isn’t the main priority, a league title would be a nice way to go into the finals.

“We got three goals on the board and were playing some really good football,” Williams said.

“We gave them three goals and I said I was not impressed and we have got to go against and try to replicate the first 30 minutes where I thought we had played some pretty flawless football.

“Thirroul have got to play Picton and Oak Flats have to play Picton. Can we finish first, maybe, can we finish top three, maybe. 

“I said to the boys after the Covid break that if we finish top three I would be happy but it would be nice to finish on top. The grand final is there to play for and that’s what everyone will look at as the major trophy this year.”

The defeat all but ends Helensburgh’s league title claims with Brad Boardman’s charges six points adrift of the top two.

The Thistle will look to shore up their top five spot away to fellow finals hopefuls University next Saturday.

Unanderra 4 (Mark Picciolini 12’ 20, Dominic Magill 19’ 60’)

Helensburgh 3 (Ben Watts 26’ 36’, Kade Kinsella 37)

Unanderra: 1. GROOM Brandon, 6. MOREIRA Brad, 3. PERINICH Michael, 16. PERRY Joel, 5. REILLY Brendan, 8. SAVERINO Michael, 11. BRIDGE Scott, 9. SAVERINO Daniel, 17. MAGILL Dominic, 13. PICCIOLINI Mark, 2. NANOS Andrew

Substitutes: 50. BUSSOLETTI Luke, 36. SHEPPARD Heath, 37. OSBORNE Lachlan

Helensburgh: 23. WARDLE Matt, 2. VAN ZYL EAMON, 3. BENHAM Jarrod, 4. CROKER Dylan, 5. MAWBEY Scott, 6. GRINHAM Jordan, 7. WATTS Ben, 8. TORIGOE Hikaru, 9. STRUDWICK Brad, 10. KINSELLA Kade, 11. MILLER Luke

Substitutes: 12. RODGERS Fynn, 13. POTTER Michael, ROWLEY Reggae (MAWBEY), 1. ROBERTS Ben

Date: 12 September 2020

Venue: Unanderra Oval

Referee: Peter Ilcevski

Assistant Referees: Rob Sindevski and Andrew Muirhead

Report by Dylan Arvela, on Twitter @dylanarvela

Photo by Pedro Garcia

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