A dramatic late winner from Brad Watts sent Rex Jackson Park into raptures on Saturday afternoon, with Helensburgh getting a 3-2 win against Unanderra.

The Hearts took the lead through a well-taken Mark Picciolini goal before Blake Currey’s penalty late in the half restored parity.

Liam Unicomb’s header with 20 minutes to play gave the Thistle the advantage heading into the dying embers of the match.

A Ryan Hunter own goal deep into injury time looked to have snuffed out their chances of a win.

However, an inspired run from Brad Watts from the kick-off reignited the side’s hopes of finishing top this season.

Helensburgh took the ascendancy early in the match, creating four promising openings within the first 15 minutes.

Five minutes in, Unicomb was unable to poke the ball beyond Blake Coad in the Unanderra goal before Watts had an effort from a tight angle repelled four minutes later. 

Thirteen minutes in, Unicomb took aim from outside the box which failed to test Coad.

A couple of minutes after this, a pinpoint accurate cross from Currey met the head of Hunter who from point-blank range blasted the ball into the gloves of Coad.

Over the next 15 minutes, the visitors began to come into the game through Picciolini.

In the 18th minute, he sent a volley wide from the edge of the box, but five minutes later, he found the net latching onto a long ball from Brad Moreira delicately lofting the ball over Jordan Paull. 

With half-an-hour played he nearly had a second finding himself in behind the Thistle defence electing to power a stinging volley towards goal, prompting a fantastic reaction save from Paull.

For the remainder of the half, the home side looked to find an equaliser.

Watts came close in the 31st minute dragging an effort wide of the far post following a run into the left channel of the box. 

With five minutes to play in the half, Coad produced another save from Currey’s freekick, although three minutes later, the hosts’ pressure paid off being awarded a penalty.

Currey stepped up and calmly dispatched an effort into the right side of the goal sending the sides level heading into the sheds. 

Despite an early chance for Picciolini, the Thistle had multiple opportunities to take the lead.

In the 56th minute, a clever pass from Unicomb on the left sent Watts one-on-one with Coad.

Going round the onrushing keeper, he could not find the net from a tight angle with several bodies blocking his shot.

With 71 minutes played, the hosts did eventually take the lead with a corner from the left coming all the way through to Unicomb centrally in the six-yard box who headed home.

Unanderra pushed bodies forwards towards the end of the half, giving Helensburgh chances to kill the game on the counter.

With 13 minutes to go, Watts went face-to-face with Coad but was denied again.

Four minutes later, Unicomb turned well on the halfway line setting off on a lung-bursting run down the right, taking on a shot which Coad was equal to. 

A number of stoppages in the match, including a serious head injury to Blake Charman, saw a significant amount of time added on.

The Hearts began to pour pressure on the home side with multiple efforts which were denied by the Thistle.

In the sixth minute of additional time, a ball into the box from the right was inadvertently directed into his own net by Hunter.

It looked to be all over at Rex Jackson Park with only seconds to spare in the match.

However, from the kick-off, Watts picked up the ball and set off on a dizzying run down the left squeezing the ball in at the near post from the tightest of angles.

The goal saw Helensburgh fans race onto the pitch in what Thistle coach Andrew Paine described as what one would hope for from a top of the table clash.

“First half, I thought we were really good, to be honest,” he said.

“Brad Watts, big occasion, big moment so it could mean a lot.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the boys.

“If we lost that game today, it was probably over.

“If you want to win things you’ve got to continually back up every single week.”

Paine also highlighted the performances of Blake Currey who has joined the side this year.

“He’s superb, and he’s been superb every single game for us,” he said. 

“He’s an incredibly gifted player.

“He’s a leader in our team.”

Helensburgh has another crucial encounter on Wednesday night, taking on Shell Cove at Rex Jackson Park before travelling to face Balgownie at the weekend.

Rod Williams’ Unanderra were the last remaining side yet to lose this season.

The Hearts will be looking to get back to winning ways this weekend against Thirroul. 

Helensburgh Thistle 3 (Blake Currey PENALTY 44’, Liam Unicomb 71’, Brad Watts 90+8’) 

Unanderra Hearts 2 (Mark Picciolini 23’, Ryan Hunter OWN GOAL 90+6’)

Helensburgh Thistle: 23. PAULL Jordan, 2. CHARMAN Blake, 3. HOPE Ryan, 4. WATSON Robbie, 5. HUNTER Ryan, 6. CURREY Blake, 7. TURRALL Peter, 8. HEWSON Blake, 9. UNICOMB Liam, 10. WATTS Brad, 11. JOHNSTON Adam

Substitutes: 12. MUCCI Joel (CHARMAN), 13. O’BRIEN Deren, 14. BROWNE Caleb, 86 BROWN Connor

Unanderra Hearts: 20. COAD Blake, 4. PRENTOSKI Aleksandar, 5. ADATTINI Stephan, 11. STRUDWICK Bradley, 2. JORGE Daniel, MOREIRA Bradley, 10. CHANG Sunny, 16. TAKAHASHI Shin, 9. SAVERINO Daniel, 7. PLAKIAS Christian, 13. PICCIOLINI Mark

Substitutes: 8. LIDDLE Jonathon (SAVERINO), 3. PERENICH Michael (PRENTOSKI), 1. D’ALESSIO Claude, 6. THOMPSON Joel (ADATTINI), 12. POTTER Michael

Date: 13 June 2021

Venue: Rex Jackson Park

Referee: Bobby Mazevski

Assistant Referees: Mick Agim and Joel Nees

Report by Timothy Gibson


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