MANLY United flew the NSW Premier League flag proudly as the Northern Beaches side claimed the Waratah Cup with an emphatic 4-0 defeat of State League One side, Mounties Wanderers.
Following an evenly contested opening period, Manly United ran riot in the second half with man of the match Scott Balderson scoring a spectacular opener in the first minute of the half.
Adam Foti made it 2-0 from the penalty spot, before Mounties were reduced to 10 men following Joel Roddan-Ward’s straight red card.
Substitutes Jordon Edwards and Justin Hayward rounded out the result in the closing stages in what was a very polished second-half display by Craig Midgley’s men.
Eighty-eight teams entered the Waratah Cup this season and, four months on, two remained as Mounties fell agonisingly short of what would have been a remarkable achievement.
Greg Baldock got the ball rolling for Mounties in the opening minute with a wicked snapshot effort finishing well wide of the intended target.
On three minutes, Matthew Simm had Ali Akbal stretching as his free kick only just failed to dip enough to open the scoring.
Manly United again had the Mounties back tracking in the seventh minute as Simm’s set-piece from the right was cleared only into the path of Daniel Grant, who saw his goal-bound volley thwarted by a sea of Mounties legs in front of Akbal.
The Cromer Park side nearly found a breakthrough in the 13th minute as Scott Balderson was played through on goal. From an acute angle, Balderson drove his left-footed effort across Akbal’s goal, much to the relief of the Mounties players.
The Mounties shot-stopper was called upon again moments later as he bravely left his goal line to fist away a set-piece delivery despite the close attention of Foti.
Mounties Wanderers responded with a quick counter-attack down the left-flank. Baldock’s trickery down the left created the space for a delivery as Mark Symington’s effort was thwarted by a well marshalled Manly United defensive line.
The State League One side held their own with a fine passing game out of midfield as Daniel McCann and Ian McAndrew moved the ball around nicely for the likes of Symington and Baldock in the final third.
Manly United’s use of the flanks proved effective as Jimmy Oates and Joseph Gibbs enjoyed some good territorial gain on their respective wings. Michael Daly remained sharp as did a very well organised defensive line.
McCann forced Dylan Mitchell into his first save of the afternoon on 28 minutes, unleashing a fierce drive from distance. Mitchell, who has been in great touch this season, made a strong save down to his right.
The Premier League outfit responded at the other end with some fluid passing to carve out a real opening. Foti’s fine short pass to release Balderson had Mounties stretched, though the delivery into the penalty area failed to pick out a Manly player as Akbal managed to claim the ball amidst the legs of three defenders.
Manly United had claims for a penalty waved away in the 35th minute as Foti scrambled his way into the area, denied by Mark D’Alessandro who closed in quickly to thwart any danger.
Balderson then called Akbal into a fine save on his goal line. The Manly United midfielder hit a powerful, curling, set piece from the left though was denied by the former Bonnyrigg White Eagles goalkeeper.
Akbal was called upon again on 41 minutes, this time making a more comfortable save to deny Colin Iley’s attempt from distance.
Mounties closed the half on the front foot as Symington’s delivery from the right very nearly picked out an unmarked Baldock at the back post. The chance went begging for Mounties as the half was brought to a close.
Immediately following the restart, Manly United found the opening goal.
Balderson unleashed a venomous left-foot drive across the face of goal, ricocheting off the inside of the upright before finishing in the back of the net.
The Manly number 7 showed exceptional technique, bringing to life the travelling Manly United supporters behind the goal.
Mounties, stunned from the early second-half set back, created an opening in the 50th minute as Reece Iredale found some space on the edge of the area.
The Mounties player connected well with his attempt on goal, though sent the ball well over the crossbar as coach Aiden Desmond added some additional firepower with the introduction of Eli Squillacioti.
Balderson nearly doubled his personal, and his side’s, tally in the 54th minute as he volleyed Colin Iley’s cross from the right inches wide of goal.
It was another fine counter-attacking move by the Northern Beaches side who continued to rise to the occasion with some fine dominance of possession in midfield.
On the hour mark, Manly United were awarded a penalty as Foti was brought down by Akbal.
The striker dusted himself off to take the spot-kick and coolly drive the ball into the bottom left-hand corner for a two-goal buffer.
Mounties looked to up the tempo and get back into the match, though consecutive chances to D’Alessandro and Baldock were thwarted by some scrambling Manly defence.
Mounties Wanderers’ afternoon took a further turn for the worst as Rodden-Ward was shown a straight red card.
With Balderson played through on goal, Rodden-Ward was forced to make a challenge, and his poorly timed attempt resulted in the red card.
The numerical advantage facilitated Manly’s run home, as the Cromer Park side called all the running out of midfield.
In the 77th minute, Akbal produced a fine point-blank save to deny Foti a second goal for the afternoon, before substitute Justin Hayward headed his glanced attempt wide of goal.
Defensively, Manly United didn’t miss a beat with Marc Richards showing all his experience in another top-class performance alongside Graeme Forbes.
Youngster Daniel Grant nearly got his name on the score sheet in the 83rd minute, picking up a delightful square ball from Robbie Cattanach.
Grant, who took a first touch, was rushed into his shot, and his effort finished wide of goal.
Mounties did show some fight in the closing stages as substitute Daniel Willoughby forced Dylan Mitchell into an exceptional save down to his right.
Willoughby’s shot packed a real punch, though there was to be no way past Mitchell on this day.
At the other end, Manly United capped off a wonderful afternoon with a third goal.
Exceptional vision from Foti saw the striker release substitute Jordon Edwards through on goal.
With only Akbal to beat, Edwards calmly toe-poked his effort underneath the shot-stopper’s body, much to the delight of the Manly supporters behind the goal.
Manly’s afternoon got even better as another substitute, Justin Hayward added a fourth goal.
Mounties coughed up possession inside their area as Foti played a delightful pass into Hayward’s path, the youngster had no trouble in slotting the ball home past Akbal.
-By Joseph Carlucci
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