And then there were four.
The Elimination Finals this week were tense affairs with the results in both matches running right down to the wire.
At the end of the day only a win will see you through to fight on for the Championship.
Find out which teams kept their finals run alive in the National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s this weekend!
Central Coast Mariners 1 vs. Northern Tigers FC 2
Northern Tigers claimed victory in the first Elimination Semi Final this past Saturday, shutting out the Central Coast Mariners and keeping their dreams of the Championship alive.
It was a tight affair for the entirety of the match however Tigers came out the stronger side claiming the majority of possession for the great part of the first half.
The men in stripes were all over the Mariners, pressing high up on the pitch and forcing numerous turnovers.
Despite finding themselves stuck in their own half, the Mariners kept their defensive structure well and nullified the Tiger’s attacks. Pearce was looking strong and confident in between the sticks for the yellow and navy, making his presence known from incoming crosses.
Chances were golden in this affair and Tigers should have taken the lead when a cross Mcconaghy in space in the box but his lunging strike was sent just over the bar.
Fortunately for the stripes they kept up the intensity and it would eventually lead to the first goal in the match.
In a manner that the match was running, the Mariners give up the ball cheaply in the middle of their half, and Tigers pounced. They immediately counter attacked playing in Mcconaghy he drove hard into the box opened up his body well and fired a precise shot into the bottom far corner.
After the goal it was more of the same, The Mariners would hold possession then misplace a pass or be forced into a mistake with the Tigers continuing their pressure to great effect. Yet neither side could really create any opportunities and the game played out mostly in the middle of the pitch.
With some tactical adjustments the lads in yellow and navy began to find their feet. Smylie moved into a more central position and looked to be the man to make the difference when he went close with a snap shot after a long throw was knocked down into his path.
As we all know in football, things can quickly turn around and in the blink of an eye the Mariners went from their goal box to being awarded a chance to get back in the game.
Pearce picked out Smylie with a great pass, who then raced towards goal and with his delicate chipped through ball for William it was knocked into the hands of the defender and the whistle was blown, penalty.
William strode towards the ball, throwing in a hesitation step, then calmly tucked away the shot into the bottom corner.
Feeling the goods after the goal, Mariners pressed on and Peters went achingly close twice in the space of a minute. He was found in space wide on the box and fired a shot aimed at the top corner but Liiband made a great diving save. Then from the resulting corner the ball scrambled about and fell to Peters who snapped a volley just over the bar.
As you thought the whistle would be blown for half-time the game changed again in the blink of an eye.
On the stroke of the break the ball flew down the Tigers right wing and as it was crossed in towards the box calamity struck. Mcconaghy and Pearce scrambled for it and found themselves both on the ground, with the ball continuing to roll towards the back post, more bodies collided and the referee blew his whistle for a penalty.
Ferrier made no mistake from the spot and gave his side the lead heading into the sheds.
Returning from the field it was a feeling as if the Mariners were going to have to do something special to get themselves back into the game in this one. They caught a break early into the second half when Craig was given his second yellow reducing the Tigers to 10 men.
Needing to bring some pace and excitement into their attack, the Mariners brought on Hatch who looked to make an immediate impact. Some great interplay down the wing had him screaming along the sideline and cutting back only for a last ditch sliding save to deny them a goal scoring opportunity.
Mariners had so much possession but Tigers had adjusted well and set up a solid defensive line cramping space and breaking down attack after attack making it very difficult for Mariners to find a way through
The only real chance for the Mariners came in the absolute embers of the game.
As injury time surely ticked it’s last second, the Mariners threw the dice for the last time. Finally deciding to go a little more direct, Faust whipped in a cross with Vinci positioned well met it with his head but was unable to direct it past Liiband, who smothered the ball sealing the game for Tigers.
That was all she wrote.
The Tigers desire to win emanated through their celebrations as they roared with joy and now tackle a qualifying final, whilst the Mariners season now comes to a close.
Wise Words from the Coaches
Speaking with Football NSW, Tigers Coach Jason Eagar was very pleased with result, “For us it was a positive attitude and positive play”.
“We played some tough games against them through the season…you can get hurt if you are not organised.”
On being reduced to 10 men Coach Eagar’s tactical tweaks worked on the night.
“You don’t plan for it too much, more a decision on what you need to do in the situation and how the result was fairing we went ahead more conservative. We made it difficult for them.”
Central Coast Mariners Coach Ken Schembri thought his side were still well within their chances throughout the match and gave credit to the Tigers for their performance.
“Northern Tigers deserved their win, there can be no arguments from us” he told Football NSW. “They were more purposeful than us, we had sufficient time and just didn’t create enough”
Whether the Tiger’s being reduced to 10 men made a significant impact in the game, Schembri talked about the difficulty in breaking down sides in big time games and said.
“At the end of the day, we need to learn to be better in the big moments, particularly in the final third.”
Saturday 1st September, Valentine Sports Park
Central Coast Mariners 1 (William)
Northern Tigers 2 (Mcconaghy, Ferrier)
Central Coast Mariners: A. Abdullah, B. Belkadi, Q. Cheng, N. Faust, M. Glassock, M. Hatch, K. Johnson, L. Miller, J. Nisbet, M. Paz, A. Pearce, E. Peters, J. Smylie, A. Vinci, C. William, A. Munford
Northern Tigers: A. Brown, J. Craig, L. Dawson, J. Ferrier, W. Foristal, M. Glanville, A. Hancock, N. Kalogerou, L. Lloyd, L. Mcconaghy, Z. Morris, J. Tanner, A. Tayebi Derazkala, B. Taylor, O. Wiggin,T. Liiband
North Shore Mariners 0 vs. Mounties Wanderers 1 – Sunday 2nd September, Lily Homes Stadium
North Shore and Mounties played out another tense finals fixture with strangely only a sole goal to split the sides.
If you were hoping for another goal-fest between the sides, you would have likely thrown your arms up in impatience as the defensive line at both ends of the park stood rock solid for the greater part of the match.
Mounties were out to prove they belong in the post-season and took it to the match favourites North Shore, with both sides colliding and each side forced few chances to change the game.
The definitive moment in the match came from a bit of a scramble mid-way through the second half. Mounties on the attack found Smith who penetrated into the box and fired a shot. It didn’t reach far only rebounding back into his path again. He would make no mistake on the second effort, firing past all bodies and into the back of the net.
Smith’s goal would deal the knockout blow to North Shore as they now bow out of the finals competition. Mounties now find themselves with a mountain to climb as they will face the current all-conquering Mt Druitt for a spot in the big dance.
-By Marcus Flottmann