Thirroul Thunder and Helensburgh Thistle were unable to be separated in a tight 1-1 draw at Thomas Gibson Park on Saturday afternoon.
Ben Watts capitalised on Thirroul’s error at the back to put the visitors in front 20 minutes in before Corey Haines-Grose’s curling freekick restored parity not long after halftime.
It was a spirited start from the Thunder, with the side pinning Helensburgh back into their defensive third early on.
The side had a couple of forays forward in the first 10 minutes with Ryan Latini unable to latch onto Robert Gyngell’s pass into the box and Daniel Arthur sending a shot over the bar.
Latini had another chance 18 minutes in, flicking a ball beyond Thistle keeper Jordan Paull, but defender Ryan Hope was on hand to clear the ball away as it trickled towards the goal line.
There was another chance for the home side from the resulting right-sided corner with Arthur’s in-swinging delivery dropping at the back post for Gyngell who couldn’t direct his header goalwards.
Thirroul would be left to rue missed chances as two minutes later, Helensburgh opened the scoring.
Ben Watts intercepting a ball intended for Thunder goalkeeper Liam Harris sliding a neat finish into the goal from the left edge of the box.
Six minutes later, Thistle midfielder Charlie Jones skewed a right-footed shot from the right edge of the box wide.
The hosts were handed another blow before halftime, with Harris unable to continue due to an injury seeing backup goalkeeper Chris Wearing come on with 6 minutes to go.
Wearing was called into action in the final moments of the first half diverting Vaughan Patterson’s long-range left-sided freekick round the near post for a corner.
Helensburgh took their lead into halftime despite Thirroul looking promising at times in the opening stanza.
The Thunder came out of the sheds firing and found an equaliser only nine minutes into the second half.
Haines-Grose curling a left-footed effort from a freekick on the right edge of the box off the left post and into the goal.
Buoyed by a fast start to the half, Thirroul continued to push on in pursuit of a go-ahead goal.
Haines-Grose was involved again in the 58th minute driving purposefully into the left of the box before finding Dean Morosin in the middle, but the midfielder’s shot didn’t trouble Paull.
Helensburgh went down the other end with Joel Mucci floating a first-time strike from the edge of the box over the bar.
The Thistle had another opportunity to retake the lead 71 minutes in as Kade Kinsella’s deep cross from the right fell to Watts at the back post, whose bouncing volley was dealt with by Wearing.
Three minutes later, another accurate right-sided corner from Thirroul’s Arthur found Gyngell at the back post with the forward, this time heading wide of the goal.
As the game entered its final stages, it became end-to-end; however, it was the away side that nearly nicked all the points.
With eight minutes to play, a fortuitous deflection fell into the path of Kinsella inside the box, although the shot lacked the power to test Wearing.
In the final minute of regular time, Helensburgh’s Watts got into the left of the box and dribbled towards the byline looking to square the ball into the middle, but it was cut out by Wearing.
The Thistle had one last chance in additional time with defender Jarrod Benham hoisting a ball into the box that Kinsella got his head to though he could only put it into the hands of the goalkeeper.
The match finished with the sides unable to be separated in an entertaining clash at Thomas Gibson Park.
Shell Cove’s victory against Berkeley means Andrew Paine’s men will have to wait a little longer for any table-topping celebrations.
The Thistle have a run of away matches coming up, travelling to Kiama next Saturday before a crunch match against Shell Cove the week after.
This result extends Thirroul’s unbeaten run to five matches taking points off the current top two in that time.
Garth Bowley’s team are also on the road next week facing Fernhill at Ray Robinson Oval.
Thirroul Thunder 1 (Corey Haines-Grose 54’)
Helensburgh Thistle 1 (Ben Watts 20’)
Thirroul Thunder: 1. HARRIS Liam, 2. BOND Daniel, 3. ARTHUR Daniel, 4. HUTTON James, 5. GIBSON Christopher, 6. MOROSIN Dean, 7. LATINI Ryan, 8. DAVIDSON Todd, 9. HAINES-GROSE Corey, 10. MUCCI Nathan, 11. Robert Gyngell
Substitutes: 12. DE LYALL Jonathan (LATINI 55’), 13. SWEENEY Hayden, 14. BOND Joshua (GYNGELL 90+1’), 15. JONES Mitchell, 16. WEARING Chris (HARRIS 39’)
Yellow Cards: Liam Unicomb 70’
Red Cards: Nil
Helensburgh Thistle: 23. PAULL Jordan, 2. WATSON Rob, 3. BENHAM Jarrod, 4. HOPE Ryan, 5. TURRALL Peter, 7. UNICOMB Liam, 8. PATTERSON Vaughan, 9. KINSELLA Kade, 10. MUCCI Joel, 13. JONES Charlie, 14. WATTS Ben
Substitutes: 6. HEWSON Blake (MUCCI 76’), 11. VAN ZYL Luke (UNICOMB 79’), 12. LEHN Ethan (TURRALL 62’), 86. BROWN Connor
Yellow Cards: Corey Haines-Grose 57’
Red Cards: Nil
Date: 20 August 2022
Venue: Thomas Gibson Park, Thirroul
Referee: Nathan Alterator
Report by Timothy Gibson, on Twitter @Timg123_