By Amateur Reporter

The Woonona Sharks travelled up the freeway to meet Eastern Suburbs Association outfit Pagewood Botany FC in their FFA Fixture. On a perfect afternoon for football, both sides were relatively unknown to each other, which made this fixture something of significance with the loser left to wonder what could have been and the winner advancing into the next round.

From the opening whistle, Pagewood Botany let it be known they were not going to be easy pushovers, as they played the ball around nicely and kept their shape. A nervous Woonona outfit almost had the dream start when midfielder Trent Worthington laid a sweet pass off to Ryo Suzuki, whose right footed attempt whistled over the crossbar.

Sharks Valentino Merxhushi was busy in the opening 20 minutes and caused havoc down the left hand flank. His best goal scoring opportunity came when he found himself one on one with Pagewood Botany’s keeper, Radim Mokrohajsky only to have his attempted shot bobble in to the waiting Mokrohajsky’s hands. Soon after Merxhushi scooted down the left hand side, cut back inside and was subsequently brought down in a clumsy mistimed challenge from a Pagewood Botany defender inside the penalty area. The referee had no hesitation and pointed straight to the penalty spot. Worthington stepped up and miss hit his attempted drive forcing Mokrohajsky to block.

With the momentum well and truly with the Woonona side, they had many opportunities to really hurt Pagewood Botany, but fell short with poor finishing. Woonona’s two best chances in the opening half came via Brandan Pattman who beat his opposite number and whipped in a nice cross to a waiting Sho Tadokoro, who flicked the ball just wide of the left hand post. Their second best came when Chris Gibson surged forward out of defence, gave a swift pass to an unmarked Worthington who stuck out his left boot close to the 6 yard box, narrowly shaving the left hand upright.

Five minutes before the half time break, a defensive error by a Woonona defender almost cost his side dearly when Pagewood Botany launched a counter attacking raid, but the resulting shot was well wide of the target. This sparked a courageous lift off the canvas of the Pagewood Botany side who, after looking down and out somehow dug deep, pressing the Woonona defence as the clock ticked towards the break after the opening exchanges were dominated by Woonona. Right on the stroke of half time, Sharks custodian Brad Jardine, who had barely touched the ball, made a superb save to deny Daniel Siniscalchi whose right footed strike was destined for the back of the net. Both sides headed to the break with the scores locked at nil all.

A stiff southerly breeze met both sides in the second half and blew straight into the faces of the Sharks. Pagewood Botany started the second half like they finished the first and really pinned the Woonona side in their own third. The Sharks struggled to find any forward movement and Pagewood Botany were rewarded after a set piece from a corner deflected off the head at the near post by Cameron Besgrove into his own net in the 50th minute.

Pagewood Botany really had the momentum now and stepped up another gear. Again, the Sharks struggled to clear the ball free and when Matthew Hoening pounced, he slotted home his side’s second goal of the afternoon five minutes later. With the Sharks lost at sea, coach Brendan Anderson looked to his substitute bench to provide some spark and to upset the growing momentum of Pagewood Botany. Woonona’s substitute, Cameron Banks brought some muscle into the deflated Woonona side, along with Ben Ellul but both players found it hard to gain any rhythm.

In the 71th minute, Woonona’s Josh Hutton failed clearance gave Pagewood Botany a three on two advantage at the back and Daniel Levitt made no mistake slotting home his side’s third with a helpless Jardine stranded. Soon after, Sharks Besgrove drifted forward and found himself in space, firing in a low bullet like drive that clattered into a Pagewood Botany defender.

Woonona desperately tried hard to get on the scoresheet but were physically out muscled, by a much more determined Pagewood Botany. With the visitors desperate for some luck, in the 87th minute, Sharks final substitution Ryan Hunter probably had Woonona’s best chance of the second half to find the net, as he latched onto a Banks cross but headed high and wide after out leaping his opponent.

Woonona defender Gibson, who tried hard all match, found himself heading for an early shower when marched for a second bookable offence in the dying minutes of the fixture, with his side well and truly on the wrong end of the score board. Pagewood Botany winning the fixture 3 goals to nil, sending the Woonona Sharks packing out of the FFA Cup.

A shattered Woonona coach Brendan Anderson expressed his disappointment after the match. “We had a number of good chances in the first half where we could have been easily up at halftime but our second half performance just simply wasn’t good enough. They just wanted it more than us, they worked a lot harder, technically we were the better team but ultimately it wasn’t simply good enough from us.” A disappointed Anderson expressed.

Pagewood Botany now progress through and meet Barden Ridgebacks. For the Woonona Sharks they must now prepare for their competition opener on Easter Saturday.

**** COVER PHOTO – Woonona’s Ryo Suzuki drives forward from midfield****