Gerringong Breakers continued their pursuit of glory, prevailing on penalties against Oak Flats Falcons at Tarrawanna Oval on Saturday afternoon.
The Breakers took the lead in the first half through Jack Ray before Oak Flats equalised in the second courtesy of Bojan Caric. The scores remained locked all the way through to penalties, where Gerringong shot stopper Joel Lockard proved the hero to get the side through to the preliminary final.
The game burst into life after the 10-minute mark, with Oak Flats getting two quick chances as Daniel Munilla’s cross caused problems before Alex Farrah fired straight at Lockard.
Gerringong found their feet soon after opening the scoring in the 15th minute. An incisive through ball in behind found Ray, who poked beyond Jacob Hufton to open the scoring.
Oak Flats nearly instantly responded through Jamie Wakeling, but his effort rolled to Lockard.
The Breakers continued to threaten, with Joshua Hawker blazing one over from a tight angle in the right of the box in the 17th minute. Then, Zac Hawker rattled the crossbar from outside the box seconds later.
Gerringong struck the woodwork again in the 25th when Joshua Hawker’s superb curling cross from the right found Daniel Lucas at the far post, who nodded onto the post.
The Falcons had a good spell after this. However, their shots flew high and wide, and they went into the break a goal down.
Gerringong almost doubled their advantage 11 minutes after halftime. Joshua Hawker mazed his way into the box before firing narrowly wide of the left post.
Oak Flats had a close chance of their own just after the hour mark when Todd Sparks received a left-sided cross at the back post, volleying over from close in. They came even closer in the 68th minute when a quickly taken free-kick found Joshua Eagleton in the right of the box, thundering the ball off the bar.
A Falcons’ equaliser started to look inevitable as Caric rolled one agonisingly wide from point-blank range in the 75th minute. And three minutes later, the side finally restored parity. Jamie Wakeling’s original strike from inside the box was well-saved by Lockard, but Caric followed up with an accurate volley into the bottom right corner.
The game went into extra time, where both teams looked eager to avoid defeat. They traded shorts early, but the scores remained level.
Eagleton almost bagged the winner for Oak Flats with just seven minutes to play, running in on goal with his original effort saved. The ball dropped back to him, and he attempted an overhead kick, but it bounced past the post.
The final whistle blew with the teams still locked at 1-1, sending the match to penalties.
Caric and Joshua Hawker scored the first set of penalties before Lockard got a strong hand to Luke Day’s penalty, and then Ray fired home to give Gerringong the advantage.
Wakeling stepped up for the Falcons, clipping the post as his shot went in.
Jason Baxter buried his penalty to keep the Breakers in front, but the Falcons couldn’t do the same, with Jamie Stevenson’s strike tipped over the top by Lockard.
Dan Layson took responsibility for the decisive penalty, finding the net to send Gerringong through.
A couple of strong saves from Lockard, in tandem with a set of flawless takers for the Breakers, saw the team through to the preliminary final and a game away from a grand final in their maiden Men’s Premiership foray.
Report by Timothy Gibson, on Twitter @Timg123_
Photos courtesy of Kiah Hufton