Bentleigh Greens and Oakleigh Cannons Progress in Finals

Finals football can be a cruel spectacle; one in which the form guide is thrown out and a season’s worth of work can be culled in a cruel instant.

Such was the case for Green Gully on Saturday afternoon, as the side from Melbourne’s Northwest eliminated from contention for the 2019 NPL Victoria Championship by Daniel Stynes 43rd minute goal for the Bentleigh Greens.

It didn’t matter that Bentleigh hadn’t won a game since July 12 on Saturday afternoon, that they had failed to register a win over a top-six side since June or that they were operating at the command of their third Head Coach of the season: all that mattered for the boys from Kingston Heath is that they will now move onto a meeting with Premiers Heidelberg United in next week’s semi-finals.

Though it didn’t end in the manner they would have liked, Saturday’s contest nonetheless marked the end of a season of development at Gully; the club improving enough to play finals football after last season being forced to stage a miracle to deny Moreland City in the NPL Promotion and Relegation Playoff.

In NPL Victoria’s other elimination final, Hume City was unable to keep the momentum from their midweek FFA Cup triumph over Adelaide Olympic going as they fell 2-0 to Chris Taylor’s Oakleigh Cannons at Jack Edwards Reserve.

The Cannons – who had won eight of their past ten matches heading into the contest – took the lead just two minutes before the halftime break on Saturday evening when Wade Decker – the hero of the Church Leagues – got in behind the Hume defensive lines and fired past Michael Weier.

Just three minutes after the halftime break, the Cannons had a second goal when Matthew Foschini took advantage of an incapacitated Weier to pounce on a loose ball that had initially been delivered into the area by Ryan Paczkowski and find the net for just the third time this season.

With their captain Weier ultimately forced off by the injury he sustained attempting to clear Paczkowski’s free-kick, Hume was unable to find their way back into the contest from their; Oakleigh setting up a meeting with second-placed finishers Avondale FC next week with a spot in the NPL VIC Grand Final on the line.

For Hume City, their thoughts will now turn to a gigantic meeting with A-League side Central Coast Mariners at ABD Stadium on September 17. Should they knock off the 2018/19 A-League wooden spooners, Head Coach Nick Hegarty’s side would book their place in the semi-finals of the FFA Cup for the second time and stretch NPL Victoria’s run of semi-finalists in the competition to three straight years.

In a strange twist of fate, the remaining four clubs standing – Bentleigh, Avondale, Heidelberg and Oakleigh – are the same quartet that endured at this stage in 2018.

In the semifinals a season ago, the Cannons took eventual Champions Heidelberg United to penalties at Olympic Village before succumbing 5-4 in the shootout whilst Avondale staged one of the most incredible comebacks in footballing history when they scored three goals in four minutes at the end of the second period of extra time to reverse a 3-1 deficit and defeat Bentleigh 4-3.

Pictures: Mark Avellino and Graeme Furlong