ILLAWARRA PREMIER LEAGUE
A gallant Bellambi outfit came within seconds of securing their first win of the season against Woonona on Saturday.
Playing with 10-men for the close to an hour, the Rosellas led 2-1 throughout the second half at Ocean Park.
But a heartbreaking goal in the final minute of normal time from Nino Merxhushi brought the Sharks level at 2-2, on the same day the club celebrated it’s 125th anniversary.
From the outset, Bellambi were out to spoil the party though and had the match’s opening goal inside five minutes through Jacob Fryday.
But Adam Di Pietro’s equaliser ensured the local derby was always going to be a tense affair.
It reached it’s boiling point before the break when Michael Baveas was handed his marching orders after hand balling on the goal line.
But Trent Worthington was unable to take full advantage as Bellambi keeper Alex Makin stepped up and made a super stop to spring the Rosellas back into action.
They soon won a penalty of their own after Ben Moerman was brought down in the area.
And Dale White confidently did what Worthington couldn’t to give the Rosellas a 2-1 lead at the half.
As the match wore on it seemed more and more likely that Bellambi could sneak home for the win.
Only to have their hopes dashed by Merxhushi with the three points in sight.
‘‘We played for 60 minutes with 10-men against a team who is in third spot and really gave them a run for their money,’’ Bellambi coach Greg Smart said after the match.
‘‘They had to get their second goal in the 90th minute.
‘‘At the start of the day I would have taken a draw but the way the game panned out we probably should have got the three points today.’’
The Rosellas job get’s no easier with a match against Dapto Dandaloo Fury looming on Monday.
‘‘It is going to be another hard game but we will just dust ourselves off and we will go again,’’ Smart said.
‘‘Hopefully luck will start falling our way and we will get that result sooner or later.’’
In other games, Cringila handed Tarrawanna a shock 3-1 on Friday night, while Dapto Dandaloo and Wollongong Olympic shared the points in a 0-0 draw on Saturday and South Coast United were too good for Fernhill, winning 3-1 on Sunday.
In a rare Saturday night fixture, a second half brace to Cameron Littler saw Bulli defeat Albion Park 3-1.
An injury time own goal helped Wollongong United pile further misery on Port Kembla in a 3-2 win at Macedonia Park on Saturday.
The defending premiers looked to have stolen a valuable point in the final minute of normal time through substitute Martin Castelli, but were left licking their wounds when Robbie Brown’s miscued header found its way past David Poeira.
It consigned Port to their second loss in less than a week after they went 5-3 to Albion Park on Tuesday night and leaves the 2013 champions stranded in 10th on the ladder.
‘‘We are finding new ways to get beat at the moment,’’ Beedie said. ‘‘One-nilup I thought we were pretty comfortable then just sloppy defending.
‘‘We have to take a real look at ourselves during the week and fire up for the rest of the season because our first half has been atrocious for the standards we expect.’’
Early in the match it seemed fortune was going to fall in Port’s favour on a perfect afternoon for football.
An early penalty shout from United striker Robbie Shields was turned down before the visitors opened 27 minutes in, in somewhat advantageous circumstances.
Reds’ keeper Sam Nastic appeared to cop some interference from a Daniel Aliffi corner which allowed the match’s eventual villian Robbie Brown to head in at the back post.
Port took the 1-0 advantage into the break, but it would end there. United came out of the blocks aggressively in the second stanza and had a number of chances to square the ledger.
Eventually their pressure paid off when John Martinoski was given enough space on the edge of the box to fire an impressive effort into the top corner.
Five minutes later, the Reds were in front courtesy of Brian Montanari.
Moments after spraying a guilt-edge chance, Montanari got on the end of a flicked header from Shields to delight the home crowd. Shields then had the opportunity to put the match to bed but could only fire his second effort off the post.
It looked like the miss would come back to haunt him as Castelli brought Port back on level terms, but the Reds’ would have the last laugh just before the final whistle sounded.
‘‘Second half we came out a different team. We talked about our first half, we were a bit flat but still created more chances than they created,’’ Wollongong United coach Oliver Vrtkovski said.
‘‘It would have been another a disappointment if we didn’t come away with three points. It would have been disappointing if we came away with a draw because we dominated that second half so much.’’