Wanderers pain as Glory snatch late draw
Perth Glory substitute Nick Ward scored an 87th-minute thunderbolt to secure a 1-1 draw against a second-string Western Sydney Wanderers outfit at Patersons Stadium on Thursday night.
The Wanderers appeared headed for their fourth straight win after Labinot Haliti's 38th-minute strike gave them the lead against the run of play.
But just as the game looked to be petering out, Ward met Ryo Nagai's beautiful cross with a powerful volley to ensure for a share of the spoils.
"I just sort of hung out at the back post and luckily enough it came to me," Ward said.
"It's good to get a point, but we're disappointed not to get a win."
Glory almost secured all three points at the death, only for Shane Smeltz's goal ward-bound header to cannon off teammate Nagai.
Despite rescuing a point out of the match, Perth were dealt a major blow in the 77th minute when defender Michael Thwaite suffered what appeared to be a serious calf injury.
Ward's goal was heartbreaking for the Wanderers, who put on a brave showing for most of the night despite entering the match minus a host of stars.
The Wanderers made six changes to the starting line-up that walloped Adelaide 6-1 last week, with coach Tony Popovic eager to rest key players during a period in which the club will play three games in 11 days.
Japanese star Shinji Ono and Youssouf Hersi didn't play while in-form striker Mark Bridge and Dino Kresinger started on the bench.
The result was enough for the Wanderers to jump above Melbourne Victory into third spot on the ladder on goal difference, while Perth remain in fifth spot.
Pacy Glory duo Chris Harold and Nagai caused the Wanderers problems early on, but the visitors drew first blood when Haliti cut inside Josh Risdon and unleashed a beautiful curling strike that bounced in off the upright.
With almost all of the 8936 crowd pro-Glory, Haliti ran over to a group of 16 Wanderers supporters to celebrate the goal.
Despite dominating possession in a physical first half, Perth were unable to unlock the Wanderers' defence, with low drives from Shane Smeltz and Steven McGarry easily saved by goalkeeper Ante Covic.
With the temperature still hovering above 31 degrees at the 6.45pm kick-off, a drinks break was held midway through the opening half.
"He felt a pop so it doesn't look too good at this moment in time," Perth Glory coach Ian Ferguson said of Thwaite's injury.
"But we've got to get it scanned to see what the problem is."
Wanderers coach Tony Popovic was pleased to secure a point and praised the effort of the players who were called up into the starting line-up.
"To come here in these conditions and put on that kind of performance is a testament to them and my back room staff," Popovic said.