Toronto Awaba FC 1-2 West Wallsend SFC
West Wallsend has booked a spot in the grand final for the first time since 2018 after striking late to win 2-1 in extra time against Toronto Awaba in the major semi-final on Saturday.
Toronto struck first less than a minute into the second stanza when Noah Fittler drove the ball home from close range following a goal-mouth scramble after the two sides had gone into half-time level at 0-0.
The Stags maintained its 1-0 lead heading into the final 10 minutes of the contest before the Bluebells struck back when Luke Willard scored directly from a corner kick in the 85th minute.
Neither side could find a late winner before the full-time whistle sounded and needed a 30-minute extra time period to determine the winner.
West Wallsend hit the lead for the first time in the match in the 97th minute when left fullback Wes Pryce scored a cracking volley from just inside the 18-yard box from a corner to make the score 2-1
The score remained unchanged at the end of 120 minutes as the Bluebells ensured they would be playing in this year’s decider at their home ground at Johnston Park.
West Wallsend’s coach Bailey Cox thought the two teams produced an entertaining finals match on what was a hot day in Toronto.
“The game was just so intense. It was a good game. Any sub that we made, I was sending them to warm up for 15 minutes and telling them to get themselves ready because they were going to be coming into a battle,” Cox said.
“It would have been a good game to watch.
“I think we played pretty decent overall. I honestly think they dominated the first 20 minutes of the first half, and then we ran over them after that. They refuelled and came out in the second half and were on top of us again for 20 minutes, then we were on top for the rest of it and in extra time. I was just waiting for us to score.
“It was a scorching day and we had drinks breaks in each half. We played seven minutes of injury time and then three or four more in each half of extra time. We played nearly 135 minutes all up. It was a lot.
“I was pretty happy with the way we defended. I think they had one good chance in the first half when Robbo (Nock Roberts) flicked one on at the front stick and Reddo (Blake Redman) made a pretty good save. But other than that and their goal, we were pretty good at keeping them at bay.”
The Bluebells’ coach was thrilled with Pryce’s winning goal.
“He’s been doing that all year, trying to hit one like that. He’s had a few cleared off the line, but he finally nailed one,” Cox said.
“As soon as it left his boot, I jumped straight up. It was a cracker.”
Toronto Awaba will now get another chance at qualifying for the grand final when they host South Cardiff in this weekend’s preliminary final following the Gunners’ 1-0 victory in the minor semi-final against Singleton.
Stags coach Jarrad Hiles thought his side played well against West Wallsend and said he was proud of his players’ efforts.
“I thought we played quite well. We knocked the ball around okay and contained them and defended quite well,” Hiles said.
“It was a bit cagey the first 20 to 25 minutes, but once we got our foot on the ball, we started to control possession.
“We scored really early in the second half and I thought we had control, but it was late in the game they had a chance and Drew made a really good save and then they scored direct from a corner. It went into extra time, and it was a top finish for the winner. A great goal that you have to take your hat off to.
“Then, in the last 15 to 20 minutes, we were pretty out on our feet.
“I’m proud of the boys’ effort. I can’t knock them. They gave it everything.
“I’m disappointed not to win but we have earned the right for a second chance. In the end, it could be a blessing, getting another 90 minutes under our belt. Hopefully, now we can get the win against Southy.”
Toronto will now have to battle it out this weekend with South Cardiff in a do-or-die clash for a place in the grand final.
Singleton Strikers FC 0-1 South Cardiff FC
South Cardiff are 90 minutes away from the grand final after they struck late to win the minor semi-final 1-0 away from home at Howe Park against Singleton Strikers on Sunday.
The Strikers were the more dominant side on the day and created more chances than the Gunners but the visitors netted the only goal of the game to get the job done.
Brendon King scored the winner in the 83rd minute when he ran on to a loose ball in the 18-yard box after Sam Modderno was tackled and both sides seemed to pull up as they expected a whistle. King reacted quickest and was able to find the back of the net.
South Cardiff was able to hold Singleton out to score their biggest win in years to progress to this weekend’s preliminary final, which they will play at Lyall Peacock Oval against premiers Toronto Awaba.
The Gunners’ coach Perry Mellon was proud of his side for getting the job done on what was likely the hottest day of the season.
“It was very hot. The drinks breaks were good, but we probably could have done with another one in each half. It was the same for both teams though. It didn’t decide the game,” Mellon said.
“I’m so stoked. Eight or nine weeks ago, if someone had of told us we’d be in the preliminary final, everyone would have bitten that person’s hand off to take it. The boys are really happy to be where we are.
“We didn’t play our best. It was probably a day where Singleton could have scored two or three goals and beaten us. But we hung in there, and our keeper (Isaac Terry) had a great game and made a few good saves early. We would have defended about 15 or 20 corners.
“We haven’t had many clean sheets this year, and on a day where we probably didn’t deserve to keep a clean sheet, we did.
“We got one on the counterattack with 10 to go and we sat in deep after that. Singleton missed a couple of half chances afterwards, but we kind of rode our luck.
“The goal we scored was our second shot on target too. We sucker-punched them for sure. Finals is about putting the ball in the back of the net, and we did what we needed to do.”
The result saw Singleton’s season come to an end. They placed third on the table after finishing the regular season with a thumping 7-0 win but were unable to score in the first two weeks of the finals series as they suffered back-to-back 1-0 losses.
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