For a while on Sunday South United coach Andrew Davy thought the old adage that you have to lose a grand final to win one was going to ring true for his side.
Chasing their first Tamworth women’s first grade premiership, they were for much of the game under fire from defending champions Flames.
But with the chance to create history, and in only their second year back in first grade after a 15 year absence, Souths dug in and scrambled their way to a 1-nil win, Brittany Parker sparking jubilant celebrations when she cracked the ball into the back of the net with around four minutes remaining in the second half of the first period of extra-time.
Davy paid credit to his sides determination and grit, especially in defence.
“We talked a lot about defence. Defence wins you grand finals,” Davy said.
“We just kept turning up for each other.”
Chelsea Thornton was “sensational” in goals and kept them in the game.
“We’re pretty sure she broke her toe on one of the saves,” he said.
Davy said they spoke before the game that Flames would be better and stronger than any time they’d played them during the season, and from early on it was clear that it was going to be a very different story to the major semi-final, where Souths brushed Flames aside 6-nil.
Souths’ for their part, whether it was the occasion or the increased pressure Flames put them under or a combination of both, weren’t as clinical and didn’t play with the same surety in their game as two weeks ago.
“We were reactive not proactive,” Davy said.
They were also guilty of not playing with enough width, which he felt played into Flames hands.
That said, Parker’s match-winning strike came from going wide and then shifting the ball back into the middle.
Davy said it was a “fantastic finish” from the NSW Country rep.
“She’s our x-factor,” he said, adding that she got through an amazing amount of work.
So to did Kate Ferguson for Flames. She lasted only three minutes of the major semi-final and had a huge influence on proceedings on Sunday.
When she hobbled off late in the first half of the first period of extra-time, there was a perceptible shift in the dynamic of the game.
“I felt going into extra-time the momentum was with us, we’d started to get a bit more of a roll on going forward,” Davy said.
Flames though had all the early possession and the better of the chances.
Coach Barrie Pritchard had said heading into Sunday they had to treat any opportunity like gold. That was their downfall in the end – not being able to put the ball in the back of the net.
But while he was disappointed about the loss, he wasn’t his sides efforts.
“I thought it was one of the best games we’ve played this year. The whole team put in,” he said.
He particularly liked the aggressive intent they showed in attack.
It enabled them to get more layers to their attack and made Souths think about how they wanted to defend, which they didn’t do in the major semi.
His message going into extra-time was to “just keep attacking”.
Unlike the previous week against Waratahs they needed to win. A draw wasn’t going to be enough.
Despite carrying 100 minutes in their legs from the preliminary final, on what he had seen from his side both in that game and throughout the decider, Pritchard was fairly confident going into extra-time.
Even after that first 10 minutes, although that was tempered a bit by losing Ferguson.
“That was a big blow to us,” he said.
She was “sensational”.
They were the walking wounded, with Ash Allen virtually on one leg.
On a positive note Pritchard said it was a “big bonus” to have Tegan Smith back. He only found out she was going to be available on the Thursday night.
“She presented a lot of options up front for us,” he said.
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