Not all fairy tales have happy endings. Unfortunately, this is what Thirroul learned when their terrific finals run came to an end losing two-nil to a well-organised Oak Flats side in a tight encounter.
Buoyed on by their excellent form over the past month, Thirroul took the game to Oak Flats from the outset, winning three corners in the opening two minutes. However, the Thunder were unable to capitalise on these early set-pieces as Oak Flats defended resolutely, clearing the ball out of harm’s way before a promising shot could be fired on each occasion – a common theme of the afternoon.
Following Thirroul’s opening series of corners, the game settled into a tight affair, with both sides defensive block’s seemingly unbreakable. The best chance of the opening 40 minutes was conjured up out of nothing when Oak Flats’ Bojan Caric, spotted Thirroul’s goalkeeper, Liam Harris, off his line in the 13th minute. Roughly 30 metres out and unmarked, Caric attempted to lob Harris only for the keeper to back-peddle and tip the ball over the bar just before the ball crept into the goal.
The break-through for Oak Flats would eventually come in the 40th minute, when a long ball into the midfield was cleverly flicked on, piercing the Thirroul defence, sending Hayato Sadamori through on goal and one-on-one with the keeper. With the ball-bobbling kindly for Sadamori, Harris in goals stood no chance, as the talented winger deftly lobbed the ball over him and into the back of the net before running to celebrate with the boisterous Oak Flats fans by the goal.
Sadamori carried the confidence he gained from scoring into the opening moments of the second half, causing multiple problems for the Thunder defence. In the 51st minute, Sadamori picked out Lee Gilroy lurking on the edge of the six-yard box with a pin-point cross only for Gilroy to head to the ball wide of the post; the missed opportunity causing the forward to hold his head in disappointment. Three minutes later, Sadamori opted to run at defenders rather than crossing. After gliding past his opposition, Sadamori found himself with an opportunity to shoot inside the penalty area. However, unbalanced, he blasted his shot well wide of the target.
In the 58th minute, Thirroul had one of their first promising chances of the match. A curling cross hit from 30 meters out from goal caused Robert Gyngell to collide with Oak Flats goalkeeper, Ryan Franks as he attempted to punch the ball clear. Franks’ punch though, would not make it past Thirroul’s fresh substitute, Oscar Pruks, stationed on the edge of the area. With Franks left helpless on the ground, Pruks only had to lob the crowd of defenders to bring his team level. However, Pruks failed to compose himself and sliced his shot well over the goal and onto the adjacent road.
Thirroul would come to rue Pruks’ miss in the 78th minute when Ryan Hazebroek doubled Oak Flats’ advantage. Manoeuvring the ball past several defenders with the help of a few deflections, Hazebroek found himself with only Harris to beat. Unfazed by the pressure associated with a semi-final, Hazebroek calmly placed the ball past the goalkeeper to score the Falcons’ second.
With Thirroul now having to peg back two goals in twelve minutes to keep their season alive, their defence became less compact which presented opportunities for both themselves and Oak Flats to score. In the 86th minute, Josh Bond, Thirroul’s extra-time hero against Unanderra, had a golden opportunity to pull a goal back for the Thunder when he was crossed the ball unmarked inside the box. However, Bond headed the ball wide of the post, spurning the opportunity for Thirroul to find their way back into the contest.
A minute later, Oak Flats would have an opportunity to wrap up the tie when Bojan Caric was played through on goal. One-on-one with the keeper, Caric chose to place the ball rather than hit it with power. This was to his detriment as the keeper parried the ball away for a corner. Alas, the save would have no effect on the outcome as Oak Flats saw out the final few minutes to secure their spot in the Grand Final.
For Thirroul, the loss will be disappointing, but they should be very proud of their finish to the season. However, while on a whole they played well this afternoon, they were ultimately outdone by a few moments in which Oak Flats showed the class which had secured them third place at the end of the regular season.
Meanwhile, Oak Flats now have the opportunity to redeem their extra-time loss last week against Bellambi in the Grand Final. They will be confident they can take out the championship if they can produce a similar defensive display to today and maintain a similar poise in front of goal.
14th September 2019 @ Wetherall Park
Oak Flats – 2 (Sadamori 40’, Hazebroek 78’)
Thirroul – 0
Oak Flats – Ryan FRANKS, Jamie STEVENSON, Ross GRAHAM, Brenton LLOYD, Christian CAPPETTA, Kyle HAZEBROEK, Jarryd VINTON, Hayato SADAMORI
Substitutes – Chris JARMAN, Daniel MUNILLO (Gilroy), Rhys BLANCH (Vinton), Chad FERNANDEZ, Justin POTTER (Cappetta)
Thirroul – Liam HARRIS, Joel MUCCI, Joshua HUTTON, Lachlan DUNN, Alan MADDOCK, Angus NICOL, Ryan LATINI, Todd DAVIDSON, Robert GYNGELL, Nathan MUCCI, Daniel ARTHUR.
Substitutes – Joshua BOND (Maddock), Oscar PRUKS (Hutton), Jonathan DE LYALL (Gyngell), James TOWNSON, Alex POSCOLIERO.
Referee – Steve BOZIC
Assistants – Nick RYAN, Jarrod THOMPSON
4th Official – Bobby MAZEVSKI.
Report by Nic Wilson, on twitter @_nicwilson
Photo Courtesy of Noel Wynn