As the game progressed it became more intense with increased drama, certainly a match worthy of a final.
With only 10 first team players available for the Plate Final, we had to procure Jetson Clague & Angus Smart from the B side to make up the numbers. Russell Vale took the game to Kiama right from the off, Jordan Errington and Zac Winter both went close but the Kiama keeper was up for the challenge. With 10mins gone the Cobras won a corner, Baxter Bowler Prentice first attempt at a cross was headed straight back to him. The Captain took full advantage and lobbed a delightful ball to the back post only to see it sneak in under the cross bar, 1-0. It only took Kiama 5mins to get back on level terms, two pieces of casual defending provided their striker with an opportunity that would be difficult to miss, 1-1.
Kiama’s tactic was to play with two holding midfielders, soak up the pressure and try to hit Russell Vale quickly on the counter attack and this almost led to a second goal. Both Zac Winter and Tommy Heaton had just been thwarted by the Kiama keeper before their striker took off at the other end with a one on one with Sean Donnelly. Quickly off his line he managed to prevent the strikers initial shot and gave Tom Curren time to get back on the goal line as cover, fortunately the lads second effort went narrowly wide. Russell Vale came straight back at Kiama. Jordan Errington had a good effort saved and Tommy Heaton had a goal disallowed for offside from a Baxter Bowler Prentice free-kick. Considering the ball had skimmed off the head of a Kiama defender prior to reaching Tommy Heaton we couldn’t help but feel hard done by. As it happens an exciting first half ended with the scores still locked at 1-1.
When the game restarted Russell Vale continued where they left off. From a Christian Baade Mortimer corner in the opening minutes, Tom Curren found himself open at the far post but just couldn’t get over it enough to force the ball on target. Zac Winter’s last contribution of the second half before he left the field injured was to see a superb run and shot skim the outside of the post. (At this point I have to say kudos to the opposing coaching team for showing concern at the injury and for supplying some pain releasing cream). Russell Vale continued to have most of the play but the Kiama keeper was having the game of his life, in fact if there had been a “man of the match” award he would have been a clear winner. With less than 10mins to go Kiama broke out of their half, a slip in defence and their striker strode away to put Kiama 2-1 up. Things became pretty desperate now for Russell Vale and we threw everyone forward in search of an equaliser while Kiama kept every player behind the ball as they tried to see out the final minutes. Russell Vale forced several corners in quick succession and from one of them Tommy Heaton went close with a header. Then we finally got a rub of the green. A Blair Dunn corner caused panic in the Kiama defence and their striker clearly handled the ball to prevent a goal scoring opportunity. Potentially it could have been the third penalty in the game to Russell Vale for handball but for whatever reason the previous two were not given. It must have taken nerves of steel for Blair Dunn to step up, knowing this was probably going to be the last kick of the Final and we needed to score to force extra time. As cool as they come Blair Dunn struck the ball low and hard into the corner of the net, 2-2. Some may recall this was the second time he had broken Kiama hearts from the penalty spot, he scored the winner against them a couple years back to put us into the Grand Final.
In the brief interval that ensued I told the players to keep the pressure on, Kiama’s heads were down, they would be deflated because they had come so close to winning the game. Despite my better judgement Zac Winter limped back into the fray at the start of extra time determined to play his part.
A superb headed clearance from Bailey Baade Mortimer eventually found Tommy Heaton out wide on the left, he cut inside and curled an unstoppable shot into the far top corner of the net, 3-2. The relief and celebrations from the Cobras was understandable, plus the corner flag took a beating as well. Kiama tried in vain to respond but they couldn’t get past a Jack Donnelly inspired defence. In the second half of extra time Russell Vale sensing Kiama were on the ropes, continued to go forward in search of the killer goal. It took a moment of magic from the hobbling Zac Winter as he temporarily forgot his injury, ghosted past three players and drilled the ball past the oncoming keeper to make the final score 4-2. At the final whistle it was really nice to see the players go over to Louis Ready so he could share in the celebrations. Lastly a special thanks goes out to Jetson Clague and Angus Smart for filling in at short notice. Playing at a higher level and in a final must have been a real baptism of fire for them but they both tried their best and as a Coach you can’t ask for any more.
To be 2-1 down in a Final with only minutes to go and come back to win 4-2 in extra time was an incredible achievement. I know I keep saying it but these little kids really do make me feel very proud and it’s a privilege to be their Coach.
“Please note there is no training tonight, after the gigantic efforts of the last few days I think the players have earned a night off”. J