Coniston broke their Illawarra Premier League grand final drought after 22 years with a 1-0 win against Cringila at WIN Stadium.
Matt Floro scored the decisive goal in the opening minutes of the second half, before being sent off for a second yellow at the start of added-on time.
The Lions made a fast start, coming close to scoring inside eight minutes.
Michael Mendes drove into the left of the box and got off a shot that Kaydin Harrison saved before Anthony Krsteski’s follow-ups were blocked and saved, respectively.
Mendes was involved again midway through the half, digging out a left-sided cross that struck the crossbar on its way out for a corner.
After this, Coniston worked their way into the match, coming forward through Christopher Arditti in the 25th minute.
Arditti played the ball to the left edge of the box for Tobias Norval, the attacking midfielder taking on a curling shot that Nikola Ristevski palmed over the top.
The side had another chance a couple of minutes later when Floro slipped in Arditti centrally for a one-on-one with Ristevski, but he rolled it past the right post.
Arditti shot once more on the half-hour mark, picking up the ball in the right of the box and firing across goal.
Coniston’s pressure continued a few seconds later when Sam Matthew’s original shot from the left of the box was saved before Floro couldn’t steer in the rebound from a tight angle on the other side.
Cringila had one more chance before halftime when Krsteski dug out a right-sided cross for Stefan Dimoski, but he shovelled it over from inside the box.
Despite an entertaining first half, the scores remained level as the teams headed into the sheds.
Coniston broke the deadlock four minutes after halftime as Floro raced down the left wing, cutting inside past Jonah Kalmanidis and lashing an effort into the top left corner.
Floro nearly had his second moments later, receiving Arditti’s ball from the left on the edge of the box and firing onto the crossbar.
As the game wore on, the Lions stepped up their pursuits of an equaliser, hitting the woodwork 73 minutes in.
Mendes’ tight-angled shot from the left of the box clipped the outside of the post.
They had another chance two minutes later when Andre Dias’ left-sided cross met the head of Krsteski who could only find the gloves of Harrison.
Coniston had a great opportunity to seal the result in the first minute of additional time when Arditti found Floro in the middle of the box, the latter forcing Ristevski into a crucial smothering parry.
That was the pacey attacker’s final action of the match, being dismissed for a second yellow card following a crude challenge on Krsteski a few seconds later.
Coniston kept on creating chances on the break and five minutes into added time, Arditti went in one-on-one with Ristevski, rounding the goalkeeper, but missing the target.
It didn’t matter in the end, as Coniston saw out the remaining minutes to claim the title.
Cringila Lions FC 0
Coniston FC 1 (Matthew Floro 49′)
Player of the Match: Sam Matthews (Coniston FC)
Cringila Lions FC: 1. Nikola Ristevski, 2. James Carli, 3. Andre Dias, 6. Harrison Taranto, 7. Michael Mendes, 13. Stefan Dimoski, 16. Ben Zucco, 22. Jonah Kalmanidis, 34. Ekoue D’Almeida, 47. Anthony Krsteski, 99. Peter Simonoski
Substitutes: 10. Steven Ugrinovski (MENDES 87′), 24. Ryan Akhurst (Dimoski 63′), 39. Dean Dimoski, 40. Jordan Prentoski (Taranto 82′), 43. Reo Hirose, 51. Benjamin Manevski
Yellow Cards: Dimoski 16′, Simonoski 79′, Carli 90+3′, Akhurst 90+7′
Coniston FC: 1. Kaydin Harrison, 2. Samuel Matthews, 3. Takayuki Kayano, 5. Daniel Loe, 6. Lukas Stergiou, 7. Matthew Floro, 10. Christopher Arditti, 11. Jake Morlando, 13. Cassidy Tanddo, 17. Jason Zufic, 19. Tobias Norval
Substitutes: 4. Tyson Black (Norval 81′), 9. Nic Tomasiello, 14. Daniel Stern, 18. Payton Skurtevski, 20. David Booth, 22. Matthew Tschentscher
Yellow Cards: Floro 50′ 90+3′, Tanddo 75′, Matthews 90′
Red Cards: Floro 90+3′
Date: Sunday, 17th September 2023
Venue: WIN Stadium, Wollongong
Referee: Andrew Naylor
Assistant Referees: Caleb Blanch and Casey Flemming
4th Official: Jay Walpole
Report by Tim Gibson, on Twitter @Timg123_
Photos by Graham Brown