Tarrawanna and Woonona have battled out a one-all draw that ensures the Blueys will be playing at least one week in the finals as the stalemate was enough to see them finish fifth in the Illawarra Mercury Premier League Campaign. Woonona went into the game just one point behind the Blueys and needed a win to jump them into fifth. Jake Morlando made it harder for them as he found the net in the eighth minute for the home-side before the Sharks controlled the game and equalised through Corey Haines-Grose in the 70th minute but couldn’t find a winner in the dying stages.

Last weekend, Tarrawanna moved back into the top five with a 3-1 win over Corrimal whereas Woonona were left frustrated when they drew one-all with South Coast United. The last time the two teams met saw Woonona come away with a 2-1 victory at Ocean Park in round 11.

The Blueys had the chance to immediately take the lead inside two minutes when Rick Goodchild was sent up the left-wing by Jake Morlando. The captain did enough to beat one player and lay it across the goal for Keisuke Hayashi but it was a chance gone begging as the winger put the ball over the bar from close range.

Just two minutes later, Corey Haines-Grose looked dangerous when he leapt for a header following a deep cross by Luke McCosker but could only flick it beyond the far post.

In the eighth minute, Tarrawanna took the lead. It was Hayashi surging in-field from the right that saw him curl an effort onto goal that could only be parried clear by Sharks shot-stopper, Ben Wunsch. Woonona failed to clear their lines as the ball came back to Morlando where he sent an accurate shot into the far bottom corner to give the home-side the first goal of the day.

The game steadied out into a see-saw battle of the midfields and the next opportunity of the contest fell the way of Woonona when a Haines-Grose corner struck the near post in the 21st minute. The ball then fell back to him where he sent a shot just wide of the far post. The Sharks coming ever so close as the Blueys held onto their lead.

From this chance, the game swung the way of the visitors. In the 34th minute, Jesse French’s cross from the right was tipped on by Haines-Grose and fell in the path of Dylan Caton waiting for the volley. However, his scuffed shot rolled into the arms of Adam Rodriguez in goal.

Just two minutes later, Haines-Grose was in the action again when he got the ball at his feet and turned his defender to send McCosker onto goal. But an unbalanced shot saw the ball slice wide of the goal.

Right on half-time, a Haines-Grose long shot troubled Rodriguez with a deadly bounce that saw him deflect it to the feet of McCosker on the penalty spot. But a retrieving Tarrawanna defensive line saw them shut down the chance and clear.

That was all the action of the half.

Woonona started the second half how they finished the first, on top. Kota Odakura was found open on the left hand side of box before cleanly hitting a powerful shot towards the far-post. Woonona fans started cheering but were soon left in disarray as the shot struck the right post and the Blueys were able to clear.

In the 53rd minute, Woonona almost grabbed an equaliser off a corner. The home side failed to clear the ball in the box and was followed by shots from Odakura and McCosker at close range. Thankfully for the Blueys they were able to get enough bodies in front of the shots to block and Rodriguez was able to jump on the loose ball.

In the 59th minute, Tarrawanna had their first chance on goal after 50 minutes of football, and it came through Rodriguez when his quick goal-kick sent Goodchild through onto goal. Trying to out-strength the opposing defender, Goodchild was able to get his low shot away from the right but was saved by the foot of Wunsch as it went out for a corner.

The home-side slowly started to regain their feet as they pushed forward for another attack just four minutes later. It was Nicolas Tomiasello that picked up the ball around the edge of the area before dribbling past several players and winning a foul in a dangerous position. Goodchild stepped up to take and it looked destined to dip down into the net but the ball struck the crossbar, keeping Woonona in the game.

It was the woodwork causing the most pain for the two sides as the visitors went down the other end just two minutes later and went inches away from scoring. Although, this time it was the cross of Jeremy Lopez in the full-back position that got deflected onto the apex and out.

But Woonona could only be denied a certain amount of times as Haines-Grose stood up to grab the equaliser in the 70th minute. Tomiasello was dispossessed off the ball just inside the Blueys half by Odakura as the midfielder delivered a chipped ball over the top to their target-man who made no mistake to bring it down onto his left and unleash a powerful effort into the top right corner at the near post. At this stage of the game, the Sharks drew level and they had momentum going into the final 20 minutes.

Despite going ahead, they almost conceded just 60 seconds after the restart when Goodchild sent Morlando though on goal up the left. The winger’s touch may have been a bit too big as Wunsch was able to rush up and put him off as he sent a chipped shot over the crossbar.

Woonona started to throw bodies forward in the hope of a winning goal which would see them sneak into the finals series. This was almost the case in the 79th minute when captain, Khalid Alali sent his header off a corner just inches over the crossbar.

As the game went into the final 10 minutes, it continued to be all in for the Sharks as they pushed for the winner. But it was Tarrawanna almost going ahead when Goodchild sent a ball along the ground towards the back post. Morlando should have had his second as he missed his tap-in just six yards out when he sent the ball wide.

Then, with just five minutes to play, Woonona thought they had the winner. It was a first time cross from Odakura that curled away from goal to the back post. Blueys defender, Matt Naylor wasn’t able to deal with it as Haines-Grose sent a header back across goal. The ball bounced in front of the goal before skimming the far post and going out for a goal-kick, leaving the Sharks in despair.

Despite Woonona’s best efforts and immense amount of chances, they were unable to break Rodriguez’ goal in the final minutes as they bow out of the Illawarra Premier League in an impressive campaign. But they bow out for Tarrawanna who are also back into the finals after missing out in 2018.

The draw for Tarrawanna sees them finish in fifth with 36 points to their name, six points better than last year. They will now take on Wollongong United next weekend in the elimination final.

As for the Sharks, they finish their season with 35 points in sixth position, beating their overall total last season by 19 points – a somewhat impressive and improved campaign.

Sunday 25 August at Tarrawanna Oval.

Tarrawanna Blueys: 1 (MORLANDO 8’)

Woonona Sharks FC: 1 (HAINES-GROSE 70’)

Line-Ups:

Tarrawanna Blueys: Adam RODRIGUEZ, Matthew NAYLOR, Haydyn LLOYD, Michael ROBINSON, Daniel CHAPMAN, Mitchell FERRARO, Keisuke HAYASHI, Benjamin LEARMONTH, Nicolas TOMASIELLO, Rick GOODCHILD, Jake MORLANDO.

Subs: Christian CABO (HAYASHI 54’), Brody PAGE (TOMASIELLO 89’), Liam THOMAS, Toby DRAIN, Kaydin HARRISON.

Woonona Sharks FC: Ben WUNSCH, Tyren MACLOU, Christopher GIBSON, Jeremy LOPEZ, Khalid ALALI, Kota ODAKURA, Jesse FRENCH, Tyler BROMHAM-FULLER, Dylan CATON, Corey HAINES-GROSE, Luke MCCOSKER.

Subs: Jai MELLOR, Cameron BESGROVE (GIBSON 63’), Trent WORTHINGTON (FRENCH 85’), Jarred MORLEY (CATON 72’), Jack CHURCHWARD.

Referee: Peter ILCEVSKI

Assistant Referees: Steve BOZIC and Mick AGIM.

Report by Nathan Turner, on Twitter @nathanturner23_

Photo courtesy of Graham Brown