Unanderra Hearts earned their place in next Sunday’s WIN Stadium grand final with a 3-1 win against University on Saturday afternoon at JJ Kelly Park.
A Scott Bridge first-half brace saw the Hearts into halftime two goals to the good. Students substitute Oscar Pruks’ goal galvanised a resurgence in the final 15 minutes of the second period. However, Mark Picciolini’s stoppage-time penalty put the result beyond all doubt.
Unanderra flew out of the blocks looking to grab an early goal. Picciolini sent a shot from inside the box over the bar five minutes in. Six minutes later, Valentino Mexhushi’s left-sided cross found Jonathon Liddle at the back post, but the attacker failed to make solid contact with the ball.
The Hearts carried on their early pressure with Tatsuki Nagatsuka’s dangerous cross from the left shovelled over the bar by University defender Lachlan Morgan in the 17th minute. Picciolini had another chance four minutes later, with Nagatsuka’s cross finding the head of the striker; however, he nodded the ball over.
University had a chance of their own midway through the half as Joshua Martin took on a first-time shot from the edge of the box that rolled into the gloves of Blake Coad.
Unanderra found the opening goal nine minutes later. A ball was slipped into the left channel for Bridge who side-footed the ball beyond an onrushing Jordan Kipps in the University goal. Bridge had his second just three minutes after his first. The forward latching onto a ball into a similar area this time edging the ball beyond Kipps, and rolling it into the now vacant net.
The Hearts’ quickfire double had them in a commanding position heading into halftime and just 45 minutes away from their second grand final in a row.
With their season on the line, the Students picked up the pace in the second half; however, Unanderra kept the side at bay for much of the second half. In the 73rd minute, Ryan Sinclair saw his shot from the edge of the box fly narrowly past the left post. University went close again three minutes later, with Cameron Hanson’s left-footed shot from the edge of the box going over the crossbar.
With the University chances coming in increasing regularity, the side halved the deficit just seconds later. Pruks, who had been only been introduced a couple of minutes earlier had his effort from inside the box saved. The Students kept the ball inside the right of the box with another substitute Liam Zamuner squaring it to Pruks – the former Thirroul attacker making no mistake this time.
Sinclair almost pulled University level with five minutes to go. The skipper lining up a first-time shot from just outside the box that barely missed the crossbar. A golden chance fell the way of the Students early into stoppage time. Nic Wilson receiving the ball in the right of the box face-to-face with Coad; however, the consequent effort from Wilson was gathered up by the goalkeeper.
As the game burned into its dying embers, Unanderra were awarded a penalty. Picciolini took responsibility sending a right-footed shot into the left side of the net as Kipps dived the other direction. A few moments after the resulting kick-off, the final whistle was blown.
Unanderra Hearts are through to a grand final clash with Helensburgh Thistle in seven days.
Unanderra Hearts 3 (Scott Bridge 33’ 36’, Mark Picciolini penalty 90+4’)
University FC 1 (Oscar Pruks 76’)
Unanderra Hearts: 20. COAD Blake, 5. DEBROT Luke, 3. BELSITO Nathan, 2. KYRIAKOUDES Peter, 6. DELBANCO Robert, 12. MERXHUSHI Valentino, 7. PLAKIAS Christian, 13. PICCIOLINI Mark, 10. NAGATSUKA Tatsuki, 9. BRIDGE Scott, 8. LIDDLE Jonathon
Substitutes: 23. MORIERA Bradley (BRIDGE 85’), 16. PRENTOSKI Alexander, 4. GOLDSMITH Jason (BELSITO 77’), 1. SAWADA Kenji, 14. MARTIN Lachlan
Yellow Cards: Tatsuki Nagatsuka 86’
Red Cards: Nil
University FC: 1. KIPPS Jordan, 2. MORGAN Lachlan, 6. MARTIN Joshua, 19. COETZER Alex, 30. INGLIS Luke, 23. SINCLAIR Ryan, 3. HAWKES Ashley, 12. HANSON Cameron, 16. JOYCE Ben, 22. TWIGG Christopher, 29. IVERSON Curtis
Substitutes: 9. PRUKS Oscar (COETZER 74’), 11. TURNER Nathan, 17. WILSON Nic (JOYCE 52’), 66. ZAMUNER Liam (TWIGG 65’)
Yellow Cards: Curtis Iverson 90+3’
Red Cards: Nil
Date: Saturday, 15 October 2022
Venue: JJ Kelly Park, Coniston
Referee: Caleb Blanch
Assistant Referees: Greg Reid and Steve Bozic
Fourth Official: Jay Walpole
Report by Timothy Gibson, on Twitter @Timg123_
Photos courtesy of Graham Brown