A SNEAKY Chris Fenton free kick five minutes from the end of extra time in Saturday’s final gave Oxley Vale Attunga a chance to defend its Northern Inland Premier League title in next week’s grand final against Tamworth FC.
The Mushies came back from a goal down twice against South Armidale to level at 2-all at fulltime at Scully Park to send the game to extra time.
Both sides had their chances to win it in regular time and in the extra 30 minutes, but it was OVA that came up with the winner when Fenton caught South napping with a quickly-taken free kick from just outside the box.
“I was thinking when it was 2-all that whoever loses this game is going to be disappointed,” OVA coach Sam Higgins said.
“They would have both thought they could have won it.
“Both sides had some chances.”
South scored early through Ben Wright but the Mushies levelled when captain Mitch O’Keefe made the most of a good through ball from Luke Purcell.
After the break, the Scorpions went ahead again thanks to a great run by Paul Wright.
He eventually had the ball pinched but the tackle only bounced the ball back his way and he sent it flying into the bottom right corner.
OVA needed something to go its way to level again and luck was on the side of the champions.
Purcell’s cross into the South box was innocuous but the South defenders made a meal of it and managed to ricochet the ball into the back of their own net.
There were more chances before fulltime and several good ones in extra time too, especially for the Scorpions.
But none went in until Fenton’s cheeky free kick for OVA.
A few minutes later it was all over and South now has all off-season to think about it.
“It’s pretty rough,” South skipper Michael Patterson said.
“We have to learn how to hang on to a lead.
“We didn’t finish off the game.
“You have to stay switched on.”
He said Colvin Williams and Ben Wright were dangerous for his side while Dan Lockeridge was busy.
But after knocking Gunnedah United and North Armidale out in the past two weeks South’s run fell one short of the grand final again.
That’s not the case for the Mushies though.
They showed patience and experience when it counted and now they get to go to their fifth grand final in a row.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who have been there and done it before and played in grand finals,” Higgins said.
“That’s their temperament.
“They know how to stay cool under pressure.”
Purcell and O’Keefe were always a danger while Mitch Cone and Brendan Fergie were busy.
It was a day of excitement for OVA all-round after the second grade final also went to extra time.
In fact it went even further than that.
After drawing 1-all with North Armidale in regular time, both sides scored two goals each in extra time and it took a penalty shoot-out to decide it.
The Mushies won the shoot-out 5-4 to progress to the grand final against South.