Oak Flats booked their spot into a second straight District League decider with a 4-2 win against Picton at King Mickey Park on Saturday.

The Falcons had to come from behind on two occasions with striker Bojan Caric the difference between the sides with a couple of crafty headed goals.

Danial Munilla had two half-chances in the opening 15 minutes, however, the Oak Flats winger was unable to really test Brad Jones with the Picton number one make two regulation stops.

The Falcons came close on two more occasions in the following 10 minutes with Lee Gilroy and Caric both nudging efforts over the crossbar. 

Fortune fell in Picton’s favour in the 36th minute courtesy of an own goal. Tom Mindzas cleared the ball into defensive partner Alex Bausch with the ball landing with Lachlan Newman. The forward’s strike struck Bausch once again, wrong-footing Franks and finding the left of the goal.

 Oak Flats went into the break trailing, however, they managed to pull level seven minutes into the second period. Aden Wade knocked in a free-kick from near the corner flag which found Caric at the near post with the big number nine glancing the ball inside the far side netting.

It took just five minutes for the Rangers to restore their advantage with a speculative long-range shot from Mitchell Hall getting the best of Franks before finding the back of the net.

The Falcons got their second equaliser of the match less than two minutes later after Jones, under no pressure, skyed the ball with Caric making up the distance before pillowing a header into an empty net.

In the 67th minute, the league champions gained the lead for the first time in the match with Wade swinging in a cross for Munilla at the far post with the wideman able to get above his marker to head the ball home. 

Picton nearly had their third with 15 minutes remaining after the ball pinballed out to Dayne Morley on the edge of the area with the midfielder blasting his shot through the crowded area and forcing a great reaction save from Franks.

The contest was all but decided in the 82nd minute when skipper Scott Miranda gave away a penalty for a foul on Gilroy. Jamie Stevenson made no mistake from the spot by blasting the ball down the middle.

The Falcons could have had a fifth in the closing stages had it not been for Jones with the Picton shot-stopper making a brave one-on-one save against Marko Bubanja and a low stop off a Stevenson free-kick.

The result gives Oak Flats a weekend off before the decider against one of Picton or Unanderra after the Hearts defeated Fernhill 2-1 in extra time.

Falcons co-coach Nathan Minutillo said he was confident his side could overcome the half-time deficit and credited Caric for his match-winning performance.

“I thought if we could maintain some composure, especially in the first half against the wind, that we can always finish strong,” Minutillo said. 

“In our last seven or eight weeks, we’ve just been able to put games together and start scoring goals and it’s really free-flowing at the moment.

“I told [Caric] at half time that this was the best he’s been all year. For us to compete at a high level, he’s got to be the man… his touch and the way he moves around with defenders at his back is better than anyone in this league.”

Oak Flats were defeated 2-1 by Bellambi in last season’s grand final, and Minutillo gets the sense that experience can only help his side’s chances this time around.

“I think last year there was a lot of people who hadn’t been there,” he said.

“This year it’s been better for us. We’re a lot more confident going in because the team’s been together for a good two years and I think they will thrive under the occasion.”

Oak Flats 4 (Bojan Caric 52’ 60’, Daniel Munilla 67’, Jamie Stevenson 82’ pen)

Picton 2 (Alex Bausch 36’ own goal, Mitchell Hall 58’)

Oak Flats: 1. FRANKS Ryan, 2. BAUSCH Alex, 3. LLOYD Brenton, 4. MINDZAS Tom, 5. GILROY Lee, 6. WADE Aden, 7. VINTON Jarryd, 8. CAPPETTA Christian, 9. CARIC Bojan, 11. MUNILLA Daniel, 12. STEVENSON Jamie

Substitutes: 71. JARMAN Chris, 10. MINUTILLO Julian (MUNILLA), 13. DEL Kyle (VINTON, 14. KOTRC, 15. BUBANJA Marko (CARIC)

Picton: 1. JONES Brad, 2. DYMOND Connor, 3. DURRANT Brad, 4. HEYHORN Michael, 5. HALL Mitchell, 6. MAIOLO Josh, 8. MORLEY Jarred, 9. MACGRAW Nathan, 10. NEWMAN Lachlan, 11. MORLEY Dayne, 13. MIRANDA Scott

Substitutes: 7. CEVENINI Christian (NEWMAN), 12. TESERIERO Matt (HEYHORN), 14. SNELGROVE Tyler, 15. NELSON Daniel (DYMOND), 16. CRUIKSHANK Robert

Date: 17 October 2020

Venue: King Mickey Park

Referee: Bobby Mazevski

Assistant Referees: Greg Reid and Anna Phipps

Fourth Official: Mick Agim

Report by Dylan Arvela, on Twitter @dylanarvela

Photo by Kiah Hufton

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