Lambton Jaffas 0 def. by Edgeworth Eagles 1 (Smith 90’)
Saturday 7 September, 3:00pm, Arthur Edden Oval
Edgeworth win 5-1 on aggregate
Despite only needing a draw, Edgeworth pulled off a slim victory over Lambton to advance to their fifth consecutive Grand Final – a record few clubs have ever achieved in league history.
A returning Josh Evans strengthened an Eagles’ back-line whose priority was to defend a three-goal lead they attained from the first leg.
Nevertheless, Lambton came close early to potentially starting an unlikely comeback. A Jaffas’ corner kick found the head of Brock Messenger, but his looping header smacked into the crossbar and the chance proved to be one of the closest Lambton would have.
Edgeworth’s rock solid defensive structure was proving most challenging to break down and instead it lead to a few goal-scoring chances for the visitors in the second half.
The right boot of Oliver Smith troubled Brad Swancott on two occasions before the Eagles’ striker instead looked to assist an effort but his pass stretched that bit too far for Daniel Fabrizio’s foot in the box.
As the second half wore on, the nil-nil scoreline continued to dwindle any of Lambton’s faint chances each minute that past, and as the game neared its conclusion, salt was rubbed into the wounds as Edgeworth were awarded penalty.
Their big man up front, Smith, stepped up and although his penalty was initially well-saved by Swancott, the rebound fell perfectly for the striker who buried it into the empty net to take his overall season tally to 14.
Winning 5-1 on aggregate, the semi-final victory stands as the second year in a row that the Eagles have defeated the Jaffas at the post-season stage.
Edgeworth coach Damian Zane said he was proud of the way his side defended, aided by the return of ‘Captain Courageous’.
“It’s a ground we don’t really enjoy playing at,” Zane said.
“I thought we were really good. It was a weird kind of game, but I thought we pretty much dealt with everything they threw at us.
“Defensively we were sound and that can often happen when you get your captain back in. That allowed Pat to go forward and we just looked rock-solid really.
“Last year I thought we were limping into the finals, while this year we’re in very decent shape.”
They now move onto the big dance on Sunday at Magic Park with the intention of winning their third championship crown over a five-year span.
Maitland FC 1 (M. Thompson 90+2’) drew with Broadmeadow Magic 1 (Majurovski 85’)
Sunday 8 September, 3:00pm, Cooks Square Park
3-3 draw on aggregate (Maitland progress on away goals)
As has been the case countless times year, Maitland survived late, late drama scoring a goal at the death to tie with Broadmeadow on aggregate but advance to the club’s first-ever top-tier Grand Final thanks to the away-goal rule.
Knowing they would most likely need to win to deny the Magpies a debut Grand Final berth, Magic flew out of the gates early on and went close to scoring on a number of occasions.
Kristian Brymora, James Virgili and Cody Carroll all troubled Maitland goalkeeper Matt Trott but the gloveman pulled off consecutive great saves to keep the scores level.
Ryan Clarke had a chance down the other end that was met with a save from Broadmeadow keeper Paul Bitz, and in the second half Matt Swan came close after a nice run into the box.
The nil-nil deadlock was finally broken just minutes before the end of regular-time by the Magicians as a cross from James Virgili was bundled into the net by their big-game striker John Majurovski giving his side what was thought to be the deciding lead.
That was until a Matt Thompson goal minutes later in stoppage time sent the local crowd into joyous chaos.
Almost a third of the Magpies’ goals have come in the last five minutes of their games this season, and they added to that tally as a long ball from Zach Thomas expertly found the feet of Sean Pratt who laid a pass across goal for Thompson to score from point-blank range.
That goal would prove to be the all-important strike and the equaliser that would break the hearts of the Magic faithful, ending their hopes of defending their championship crown.
Magpies’ coach Mick Bolch praised his side for their ability to once again produce a late rush of effort to work their way over Magic and record the result they needed.
“Magic were probably the better side on the day, but football is a funny game,” Bolch said.
“We worked hard, and we kept going to the end and we got the rewards for our hard work. Over the two legs, it was pretty even.
“Some of our younger boys were probably a bit overrode today. They haven’t been in big games like that while Magic have been playing them sort of games for years.
“Matt Trott was outstanding in goals for us today and made some really good saves.
“The thing with this side is, they never know when they’re beat. It’s been happening all year.”
Maitland have now booked a date with Edgeworth in the Grand Final to be played next Sunday at Magic Park at 3:00pm.