Oak Flats Claim Community League Grand Final Thriller

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“Season form is irrelevant when it comes to a grand final, it’s who wants it the most on the day that counts”

This age old adage rang true in Saturday night’s Community League Grand Final, as 6th place finishing Dandaloo pushed Minor-Premiers Oak Flats all the way to a Penalty Shoot-Out.

Oak Flats did eventually claim the Championship after a nail-biting 110 minutes which saw the lead change hands three times, a goal disallowed in extra-time and goalkeeper howlers before finally being decided by the ultimate test of nerves, penalty kicks.

Dandaloo came into the final as firm underdogs after finishing 6th in the regular season and only making the finals thanks to a win in the final game of the season. This could not have been more different for Oak Flats as they scored 86 goals and only lost once as they claimed the Premiership.

This match however, was the perfect example of lifting to the occasion as Dandaloo matched Oak Flats for large parts of the game and even took the lead.

However, this was short lived as Oak Flats equalised within a minute. Oak Flats then looked to be in control after going 3-1 up in early in the second half but two goals at the death sent the game into extra-time.

Despite Dandaloo having a goal disallowed, the 20 minutes went by without a goal and sent the game into spot kicks.

The opening exchanges of the match were largely dominated by Oak Flats but forwards Paul Gaffney and Luke Greathead were limited to taking snapshots which were largely blocked by the resolute Dandaloo defence.

The first real clear cut chance through an Oak Flats attack in the 15th minute when Greathead drew two defenders and played Gaffney front and centre through on goal. Despite being 10 yards out, Gaffney couldn’t finish the chance as brilliant reflexes from Dandaloo keeper Tam Hart kept the game scoreless.

There were many half chances but nothing really troubled either goalkeeper until the 25th minute when a moment of individual brilliance from Dandaloo’s Lachlan Blayney saw him dribble past 4 players on the right hand side before playing a neat ball into Matthew Griffiths who was darting into the opposite side of the box.

Griffiths took the shot first time as it came across his body and rifled the ball past a helpless Ryan Bradbury.

This somewhat surprising lead was short lived as Oak Flats responded within a minute as they sparked into action from the kick off. A cross-field ball was cleanly taken down on the right wing by Greathead before whipping an inviting cross in the box which was turned in at the back post by Gaffney.

Oak Flats used this shift in momentum to create several chances and were unlucky not to extend their advantage. This included in the 30th minute as Gaffney had his curling effort from a free kick 20yds out palmed over the bar.

Dandaloo continued to state their intent by patiently building up attacks by playing out from the back. However, This almost backfired as they were dispossessed in midfield by Oak Flats and Greathead rifled a shot from the edge of the box, beating the keeper but just sailing past the right post.

This was the story of the first half as a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping saw the game head into the break at one a piece.

Whatever was said in the Oak Flats dressing room at half-time definitely had an impact as within three minutes of play restarting, they took the lead for the first time in match through another link up play between Greathead and Gaffney. A neat one-two on the right wing saw the ball worked out wide before the cross was bundled over the line by Greathead.

Dandaloo looked stunned and struggled to emulate their dangerous attacking plays from the first half. Oak Flats capitalised on this and would have doubled their advantage in the 61st minute were it not for some bodyline defending from Dandaloo as Peter Lawlor’s deflected shot went wide.

Adam Mark rose up to meet the resulting corner but his header was miscued and floated tamely in the air. However, a miscommunication between Dandaloo keeper Hart and one of the defenders saw the ball end up on the floor and Mark was Johnny-on-the-spot to double Oak Flats’ lead.

The game then slipped into 3rd gear as Oak Flats looked to run the clock down and Dandaloo looked a dispirited team who had run out of time.

Neither side were able to manufacture any clear cut chances until a brilliant cross out of nowhere in the 77th minute from Micheal Rixon, deep on the right hand side wrongfooted the Oak Flats defence and was put in by Kris Janeski at the back post.

Suddenly Dandaloo had their tails up and were right back in the match with Rixon leading the charge and was unlucky not to score one himself as just minutes after providing the assist to bring his team back in the game, he rattled the cross bar with a scintillating strike from close to 35 yards out.

With Dandaloo flooding numbers forward, Oak Flats had opportunities to put the game to bed but scuffed multiple chances on the counter attack. But with the game headed into injury time, it looked like Oak Flats would hold on.

93rd minute. Dandaloo get a free kick inside the centre circle and congest the box in a last ditch attempt to draw level. The ball was floated into the penalty box but immediately headed out by Oak Flats.

Unfortunately for them it fell right to the feet of the waiting Stefan Marjanovic who took a touch and smashed the ball into the top right corner sending the Dandaloo supporters into a frenzy.

The full time whistle sounded not long afterwards, sending the game into extra-time.

Both teams looked clearly fatigued and the first half went by without any notable events.

The second half looked to follow suit until with three minutes to go when Dandaloo looked to have snatched the game at the death when a long through ball in behind fell into the path of Gregory Doherty who cooly slotted the ball into the back of the net.

Doherty had started celebrating when he glanced over to the sideline and to his disbelief saw the linesman’s flag raised in the air. This rounded out extra-time time as Oak Flats had no clear opportunities to score and the game went into a penalty shoot out.

The Community League Championship was now due to be decided by the ultimate test of nerves from 11 yards out. The first three kicks were clinically finished for both teams but things suddenly became interesting as the stakes got higher. Adam Martin cooly dispatched his kick into the bottom left corner for Oak Flats which turned the pressure back onto Dandaloo. It was a scene out of every footballer’s worst nightmare as Nicolas Pupovac slightly lost his footing as he struck the ball, sending it over the top left of the goal and giving Oak Flats a glorious opportunity to win the match.

Up steps Paul Gaffney who, after claiming a goal and assist in regular time, cooly placed the ball in the bottom right corner and winning the Grand Final for Oak Flats.

It was a match that certainly lived up to its ‘Grand’ title as the balance of play changed hands various times throughout the 110 minutes yet in the end, there can be no denying that while Dandaloo put up a good fight, Oak Flats deservedly capped off their Premiership winning season with a Grand Final win.

14th September 2019 @ Ian McLennen Park

Oak Flats–3 (Gaffney 26’, Greathead 48’, Martin 61’) (5 Penalties)

Dandaloo – 3 (Griffiths 25’, Janeski 77’, Marjanovic 93’) (3 Penalties)

 

Oak Flats – No Starting Line-up. Just team List.

Lachlan Blayney, Jak Boyce, Christopher Cobb, Gregory Doherty, matthew Griffiths, Tam Hart, Josh Hockey, Matthew Hughes, Kris Janeski, Mathew Lau, Nicholas Long, Stefan Marjanovic, Brenan O’Donoghue, Nicolas Pupovac, Blake Rae, Micheal Rixon

 

Dandaloo – No Starting Line-up. Just Team list

Ryan Bradbury, Lance Condello, Luke Everingham, Christopher Fernandez, Paul Gaffney, Jason Goldsmith, Luke Greathead, Peter Lawlor, Matthew Lickiss, Andy Lindsay, Adam Martin, Timothy Robbie, Glenn Stoklasa, Jarren Terry, Samuel Warby

Referee – Greg Reid

Assistants – Graeme Charker, Italo Roncanto

Report by Tomas Phillips.

Photo by Dana Guthrie

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