THIRROUL WITHSTAND LATE CHARGE TO STORM TO CHAMPIONSHIP

In a clash of the two best sides in the WCG Cranes District League Reserve Grade competition, Fernhill Foxes took on Thirroul Thunder at Wetherall Park in the Reserve Grade Grand Final for the right to call themselves Champions. Fernhill entered the game as pre-match favorites, having topped the ladder with 54 points across their 22 matches and waltzing past Warilla Wanderers 2-0 in the Major Semi Final to book their spot in the big match at the first point of entry. However, Thirroul – who finished 2nd on the ladder with 47 points after 22 matches – had to work to book their spot in the game, after losing 2-1 to Warilla in the Qualifying Final. The side then defeated Oak Flats Falcons 3-0 to move onto the Preliminary Final where they faced Warilla again, this time gaining revenge in the biggest possible fashion, with a 6-0 demolition of the Wanderers enough to send the Thunder into the final. Both sides had taken a win over the other team during the regular season, with Fernhill downing Thirroul 5-3 in round 4 and Thirroul beating Fernhill 3-2 in Round 15, so fans were expecting a close game where either side could win on the day.

The final started off with both sides getting early shots off at the opposing goal, with Thirroul having a free kick from Bradley Strudwick sent over in the opening sixty seconds, while Fernhill’s Matt Richardson would fire off a shot straight down the throat of Thunder keeper Chris Wearing just three minutes later. It was Fernhill that held the advantage at the start, with both Toby Napper and Richardson going close to breaking the deadlock in the opening twenty minutes, only to have their respective shots just go wide of the Thirroul goal.

But it was the Thunder who would strike first in the 21st minute, with a fantastically placed corner from Strudwick finding the head of Scott Woods, who expertly netted the ball to give the Thunder the opening blow in the Grand Final. Just three minutes later Thirroul found themselves a second goal ahead, with an attack forming from a great pass by Oscar Pruks to find Bradley Strudwick. It was Strudwick who again found the perfect pass, setting up Jonathon De Lyall to have a simple shot on goal. De Lyall managed to sneak his shot past Fernhill’s Brad Hunter and send the Thunder up by two goals after just 24 minutes of play.

With the game to chase, the Foxes pushed hard to bring themselves back into the contest, and Luke McDonald came close to pulling one back for the Foxes with his header off a Fernhill cross just going wide of the Thunder’s goal post. As the first half wound down, Fernhill again had a golden chance to bring themselves back into the contest with a great pass from Richardson finding the foot of Andrew Breslin, only for his shot to be saved with a fantastic reflex save from Chris Wearing.

With the Thunder 2-0 up at the break, the Foxes needed to get back into the game quickly in the opening stages of the second half in order to stand a chance of taking the title and Brett Kear had an early chance to pull one back for Fernhill, however his header off a corner from Hiroki Makita went just wide of the Thunder goal.

With the Thunder playing a more defensive style of football – one that also worked wonders for their first grade side – the side was able to restrict the Foxes to the occasional pot-shot at the goal in the opening stages of the second half, although Hiroki Makita came close to scoring a goal for Fernhill after a fantastic bit of ball control to beat a pair of Thunder defenders but his final finish was deflected by a Thirroul defender and limped out for a corner.

As the clock looked towards the end of the match, Fernhill supporters continued to be adamant that a goal would come in time and they were finally rewarded in the 82nd minute after a period of five minutes of attacking dominance from Fernhill. The Foxes first managed to break through with a well-placed through ball from Andrew Breslin to Matt Richardson, but Richardson’s shot went just wide of the Thirroul post in a scene that was looking all too familiar to Fernhill fans. However, the Foxes managed to instantly get a hold of keeper Chris Wearing’s goal kick, and finally Fernhill broke through with Breslin himself netting a crucial goal for Fernhill with just eight minutes left in the match.

The Foxes continued to push and find an equalizer, forcing the Thunder to attempt to draw the game to a close by slowing play down and frustrating Fernhill off the ball, but this strategy did not stop the Foxes, who came agonizingly close to an equalizer when Hiroki Makita’s amazing solo run almost resulted in a classic goal, but his final touch was lackluster and keeper Chris Wearing was able to deal with the shot rather simply. Fernhill looked to be getting over the Thunder towards the end of the match, but in the end they left their charge too late and Thirroul were able to hold on for the victory and the championship.

For Thirroul, the win caps off a great season where the side managed to live up to their finals expectations and go one better in taking out the minor premiers in the big game. There was also an added bonus for the Thunder with Tom Goodier picking up the player of the match award for his stellar contribution to the Thunder machine during the final.

Fernhill FC – 1 (Breslin 82’)

Thirroul Thunder FC – 2 (Woods 21’, De Lyall 24’)

Saturday the 23rd of September 2017 at Wetherall Park.

Fernhill FC – Brad Hunter, Luke McDonald, Brett Kear, Joel Sims, Nathan Thompson, Lee White, Dean Morosin, Damien Warwick, Andrew Breslin, Toby Napper, Matt Richardson

Subs – Kevin McDonald (on for Morosin), Hiroki Makita (on for White), Christian Armour (on for Sims), Michael Stephenson, Yacoub Hadaya

Thirroul Thunder FC – Chris Wearing, Jonathon Tobin, James Townson, Ryan Hunter, Tom Goodier, Scott Woods, Jonathon De Lyall, Aaron Buzinki, Oscar Pruks, Bradley Strudwick, Robert Gyngell

Subs – Nathan Orvad (on for Woods), Jordan Simms (on for Townson), Marcus Rusbourne (on for De Lyall), Tyler Snelgrove (on for Buzinki), Liam Harris

Referee – Ryan O’Sullivan

Assistant Referees – Keelum Harrison, Darcy Jordan

Report by Cal Behrendt, on Twitter @CalBehrendt

Photo courtesy of Pedro Garcia




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