University have improved their chances in playing in the 2020 PeopleCare District League finals series with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Helensburgh at Kooloobong Oval on Saturday.
Both teams went into the contest sitting just one point apart on the competition ladder, in search of a top five finish.
The Thistle started the better out of the two sides as Luke Miller was played in behind the University defensive line. However, an onrushing Caleb Biondo in goal was able to deny the winger, getting a toe to the low shot.
The game steadied into an even battle for the next 20 minutes that saw both teams control the ball in patches. The visitors really should have gone ahead in the 25th minute but Kade Kinsella couldn’t connect with Ben Watts’ cross as he scuffed his shot from 10 yards.
University then responded with attacks of their own as shots from distance by Doug Woodiwiss and Jonathon Liddle skimmed past both uprights just minutes later.
But it was the Thistle breaking the deadlock in the 33rd minute when Hikaru Torigoe dispossessed Woodiwiss deep into the University half. The midfielder made no mistake in front of goal, finding the bottom right to give Helensburgh the lead.
The Thistle started the second half with the intensity that they finished the first. They almost doubled their lead just 30 seconds after kick-off but again it was a goal gone begging when Miller’s cross just rolled beyond the reach of Bradley Strudwick.
The visitors were left to rue their missed chances as University equalised 10 minutes later. It was Woodiwiss making amends for his earlier mistake, firing his effort from 20 yards into the bottom left, setting up a frenzy final half hour.
In the 62nd minute, Helensburgh had the students defence on the ropes following a Jarrod Benham free-kick. The ball was whipped in with pace and Kinsella was able to flick it on with his head towards the back post. With Biondo out of his goal, substitute Jordan Grinham tried the spectacular scorpion kick but a scrambling University defence was able to clear.
Chances opened up as the game went on, with both sides looking for a winner. The home side went close on two occasions when Conor O’Brien sent his curled effort from the left inches wide of the far post and Thistle shot-stopper Braiden Gilbert was called into action to palm away Adam Bassuni’s long-range attempt just three minutes later.
But despite all the efforts from either teams’ attack, it was centre-half Jordan Simms putting the students ahead in the 76th minute with a powerful header off a corner.
The Thistle continued to throw bodies forward in the dying stages in search for an equaliser. In the fifth minute of stoppage time, the ball fell to Strudwick on the 18-yard box and looked to have an easy chance to snatch a point, but a rushed attempt saw the striker blast it over the bar to all of the Thistle’s fans despair.
University proving too strong in the second half to secure a crucial 2-1 win in their pursuit for a finals spot.
The win does see the students jump both Helensburgh and Kiama into fifth spot, two points ahead of the Thistle in sixth. They travel to Thirroul next weekend.
As for Helensburgh, they drop out of the five for the first time this season. They return to Rex Jackson Park to take on Kiama on Saturday.
University FC: 2 (Woodiwiss 56’, Simms 76’)
Helensburgh Thistle: 1 (Torigoe 33’)
University: 1. BIONDO Caleb, 2. GALEA James, 3. SIMMS Jordan, 5. PRESSLABER Chris, 7. MARTIN Josh, 8. IVERSON Curtis, 9. LIDDLE Jonathon, 13. O’BRIEN Conor, 16. HANSON Cameron, 21. BASSUNI Adam, 25. WOODIWISS Doug.
Substitutes: 6. ANWER Abdullah (LIDDLE), 10. TWIGG Chris (PRESSLABER), 12. SINCLAIR Ryan (HANSON), 19. COEZTER Alex, 31. MAXWELL James.
Helensburgh: 1. GILBERT Braiden, 2. CHARMAN Blake, 3. BENHAM Jarrod, 4. CROCKER Dylan, 5. MAWBEY Scott, 6. VAN ZYL Eamon, 7. WATTS Ben, 8. TORIGOE Hikaru, 9. STRUDWICK Bradley, 10. KINSELLA Kade, 11. MILLER Luke.
Substitutes: 12. GRINHAM Jordan, 13. ROWLEY Reggae, 14. POTTER Michael, 23. ROBERTS Ben.
Date: 19 September 2020
Venue: Kooloobong Oval
Referee: Greg Reid
Assistant Referees: Anna Phipps and J. Nees
Report by Nathan Turner, on Twitter @nathanturner23_
Photo courtesy of Pedro Garcia