ECU Joondalup spoil the party at Inglewood
Report by Peter Simcox
Photo courtesy Vince Caratozzolo
Inglewood United missed out on the PS4 National Premier Leagues WA title after they were beaten 1-0 by ECU Joondalup at the Inglewood Stadium on a dramatic final day of the season.
Andy Higgins’ in-swinging corner in the second minute of second half stoppage time won it for Dale McCulloch’s side and results elsewhere meant Inglewood missed out on their first Premier League crown since 1996, with Perth SC pipping them for the title.
The win meant ECU Joondalup finished third and will play in The West Australian Top Four Cup, along with Perth SC, Inglewood and Floreat Athena, and it's the first time the club have made the end of season finals since 2010.
McCulloch said they had to do it the hard way after losing top goal-scorer Gordon Smith after 30 minutes with what looks like an end of season knee injury.
“It was a bitter blow to lose Gordon but we’ve been really lucky this season with injuries,” he said.
“This is what happens in football and we have to adapt and I thought Paddy (Doyle) was exceptional for us when he came on”
“It looked like the pressure of being top of the table affected Inglewood slightly today. They will be hurting in the rooms but we came here to win a game of football and I thought we did everything to get the job done.”
The wind caused problems all day and McCulloch said their defence were exceptional in the first half when the home side had it at their backs.
“I thought we had the best of the clear cut chances today, they are always dangerous from set-pieces but we defended superbly.
“Lewis (Italiano) stood tall when needed, and the save from Pritchard late in the game kept us in it; he claimed everything in the air today and showed again what a good keeper he is."
It will be the first end of season final ever for goal-scorer Higgins and he said the players were outstanding.
“We’ve come a long way this season, I think in round 10 we only had nine points and sitting fourth from the bottom,” he said.
“But we got on a good run and we’re now in the finals. I’ve never played in the finals at the club so I can’t wait but it’s been a great effort from the whole squad.”
Of the dramatic late winner, Higgins said he wasn’t going for goal but he’ll take it.
“The wind was causing problems all day, so I just put in the box and luckily it went in,” he said.
“We came into the game with a great deal of confidence and we didn’t want the draw, we wanted the win and we’re delighted to have secured it.”
A big crowd was on hand at kick off, and the top four spots, and the title, were both up for grabs with six teams in the mix for Top Four Cup.
It was Inglewood who started the brighter and went close after only nine minutes.
Adam Tong’s long throw was met by former ECU defender Scott Blackmore but he headed straight at Italiano, before Callum O’Connell’s flick was deflected wide moments later.
The visitors suffered a blow when Gordon Smith limped off on the half hour; he was replaced by Paddy Doyle.
Joondalup settled and had their best chance eight minutes later. Tommy Amphlett played in Daryl Nicol who raced into the penalty area but he shot inches wide of the target.
Both sides pressed for the rest of the half but clear-cut chances were few and far between and they went into the break all square.
It was a lively start from the visitors after the break. Higgins crossed to Nicol at the back post but the striker headed over the top and moments later Nicol stung the palms of Alex Dunn.
With news filtering through of Perth scoring at Sorrento, Inglewood knew they needed the win but ECU were making it hard for them.
The impressive Kevin Moon sent Amphlett racing down the right, he eased past his marker but his shot flashed the wrong side of the upright.
Inglewood were pushing men forward in search of the winner and it almost came on 86 minutes.
Second-half substitute Mark Pritchard burst into the penalty area, his shot was superbly saved by Italiano and the ECU custodian was quickest to react to pounce on the rebound.
It looked like the points would be shared but on 92 minutes the visitors won it. Higgins’ in-swinging corner beat everyone and flew straight into the net to set off wild celebrations on the pitch.
Inglewood United 0
ECU Joondalup 1 (Higgins 92 Mins)
Saturday August 27, 2016
Inglewood Stadium, Inglewood
Referee: Steven Gregory
Assistants: Simon Hicks, Callum Haddow
Inglewood United: GK Alex DUNN, 3 David CYRUS (c), 4 Scott BLACKMORE, 5 Adam TONG, 6 Callum O’CONNELL (13 Josh PEREIRA 89’), 7 Kenny KEOGH, 8 Jason BARRERA, 9 Brian WOODALL, 10 Ash ROSINDALE (14 Mark PRITCHARD 69’), 17 Tim ROBERTSON, 18 Jason COLLI (12 Scott WITSCHGE 75’)
Subs not used: RGK Luke HUTCHESON, 15 Matthew SPURLING
Yellow cards: Keogh 24’, O’Connell 55’, Tong 75’
ECU Joondalup: GK Lewis ITALIANO, 2 Ryan LOWRY, 3 Rikki SMITH, 4 Steven MCGARRY, 5 Andy HIGGINS, 6 Shane PICKERING, 9 Daryl NICOL, 10 Gordon SMITH (19 Paddy DOYLE 30’) (7 Jayden DRUMMOND 93'), 11 Cian HIRRELL, 13 Tommy AMPHLETT, 17 Kevin MOON
Subs not used: RGK Todd HOYLE, 8 Ollie ANNIS, 12 Ryan MCDARBY
Yellow cards: McGarry 80'