PHOTO: SPROULE SPORTS FOCUS
Lambton Jaffas 2 (Marpu 110’, Brown 115’) defeated Edgeworth Eagles 0 at McDonald Jones Stadium. Crowd 4,174.
For the second time in a week, Lambton Jaffas striker Pat Brown came off the bench, and was quickly onto the scoresheet, as the Grand Final underdogs produced a superb defensive display and overcame injuries as they shutout Edgeworth.
The win ended the Eagles’ stranglehold on the PlayStation®4 NPL Northern NSW silver wear which has lasted an incredible three seasons.
After 120 minutes of tight, intense and quality football, Lambton were just able to nose their way in front thanks to goals from Brown and Ridge Marpu in the second period of extra-time.
While for the natural observer, it may have been a match which lacked chances and attacking play, the high intensity was there for all to see and for the most part, the match was played on a knife’s edge.
It seemed one small error would cost either side the match, and until Marpu scored in the 110th minute, the match seemed destined for the lottery of a penalty shootout.
The first 45 minutes were incredibly tight and both sides struggled to find openers. Daniel McBreen sprayed a volley from just inside the box wide, while Ben Hay tested the Eagles with a couple of efforts from the edge of the box.
The sides headed to the sheds deadlocked and while the match opened up slightly in the second half, neither side could find the goal which would break the match wide open.
Man of the Match, Luke Remington, had a great chance after the resumption when Ryan Griffiths cut down the right edge and squared to the speedster who was just inside the box. But, he skewed his shot wide.
Edgeworth then had their best chances.
Brad Swancott was superb in goals for the Jaffas making several saves to deny Kieran Sanders just after the interval. McBreen also had another chance from the edge of the box, however, struck his shot straight at the Lambton keeper.
The Jaffas then were forced into a serious of quick-fire changes, as Joel Griffiths, who had ran his heart out, left the field in the 58th minute before captain Jobe Wheelhouse succumbed to injury in the 74th minute.
Disaster then struck in the 78th for Lambton when one of their young stars Ben Hay went down with injury and he too left the park minutes later. The Jaffas bench cleared with still over ten minutes to play, while the Eagles had only made the one change.
Into extra-time, the match went and still, neither side could find a way through in the opening period.
But, in the final 15 minute of their season, Lambton found the go-ahead goal. Edgeworth hadn’t conceded in the final 15 minutes of a PS4 NPL NNSW match all season, but that was all about to change.
Nathan Morris, curled in a free-kick from 45 degrees on the right, from 35 metres out, pinpoint into the box. Edgeworth failed to deal with the ball and it bobbled into the path of substitute Ridge Marpu who calmly slotted the ball home in the 110th minute.
Edgeworth had to push forward and look for the equaliser and it came at a cost as the Jaffas struck just five minutes later. Brown signed, sealed and delivered a first Jaffas Championship since 2014 with a solid finish.
Man of the Match Luke Remington chipped an inch perfect ball over the top of the Eagles high defensive line and the Jaffas leading scorer in 2017 finished it clinically.
Lambton coach James Pascoe told BarTV Sports’ Damien Smith post-match that he was ‘relieved’ more than anything to claim the title.
“The boys have worked so hard and again today we have had to overcome some hiccups through the game in terms of injuries,” Pascoe said.
“The three substitutions were forced on us largely and you’ve got to move the jigsaw puzzle pieces to try and nullify Edgeworth’s threats and I thought we managed to do that pretty well.”
Pascoe also praised captain Jobe Wheelhouse who played through the pain barrier.
“He’s a different level player Jobe,” Pascoe said.
“Our plan today was to do a fitness test about eleven o’clock and about an hour beforehand he just sent me a message and said, ‘I’m just worried if I do that it will stiffen up on me this afternoon.’ He said, ‘let’s just go for it in the warm-up and we’ll see.’
“For him to go out there and do that on one leg, it’s just massive. He’s a special boy.”
In his first Grand Final defeat as Edgeworth coach, Damian Zane felt his side weren’t clinical enough.
“We had chances and we had a lot of chances to make chances,” Zane said.
“We probably had that period [after half-time] and you felt we were going to score and we didn’t. Our last pass and decision-making weren’t quite right.
“Look at the big matches this year, South Melbourne [in the FFA Cup] could have been over at half-time, Broadmeadow Magic last week shouldn’t have gone to 120 minutes, we should have finished it in the first 30, we didn’t.
“Again, we had chances and didn’t take them [tonight]. There are three big matches and we didn’t take chances that we had.”
Looking forward, Lambton head into their off-season while Edgeworth moves into the PS4 NPL Finals Series on the as a result of their Premiership victory, potentially without keeper Nate Cavaliere who is in doubt with a broken finger suffered at training in the lead-up to the Grand Final.
They will play their Quarter Final match against Canberra Olympic at McKellar Park in the Nation’s Capital on Saturday 16 September.