OXLEY VALE Attunga have been crowned champions of the McDonald’s Northern Inland premier league for the third year running after holding out a fast-finishing South Armidale United in Saturday’s decider at Armidale’s Bellevue Oval.
South Armidale put plenty of pressure on the reigning premiers early on in the match but failed to hit the back of the net.
The Mushies took full advantage and hit the lead 18 minutes into the game when an Adam Watson header sailed past Scorpions’ goalkeeper Richard Morris.
Less than five minutes later, Oxley Vale’s Lachlan Browne put one past Morris for the side’s second.
It only took another 10 minutes before Chris Fenton extended the visitors’ lead to 3 nil before the sides headed into the sheds for the half-time break. South Armidale clawed their way back into the match in the second stanza when captain-coach Ben Wright sliced the ball past Mushies’ goalkeeper Troy Keyte to hand the hosts their first goal.
In a firey encounter, the intensity of the match rose and the Scorpions closed in on the Mushrooms’ lead 20 minutes later when Cody Watts hit his target.
In a physical final 10 minutes, where two red cards were handed out, Oxley Vale held out the fast finishing South Armidale to claim the match 3-2.
Mushrooms’ coach and Northern Inland Football’s president Tim Coates was pleased his side were able to hold on in a tight tussle to clinch their tightest grand final victory in their three years of winning.
"It breaks the tradition of no one winning three, so it is good,” he said
"It was 3-0 early, they came back, they deserved to be there.”
He was happy with the side’s overall performance and couldn’t fault their effort.
"Everyone just did their job as normal,” he said.
"It is a team game, team effort and team result. Full credit to Souths and a big thanks to SportUNE for the ground today.”
Wright said it was missed opportunities early on in the decider cost his side a fairytale finish to a strong back-end of the season.
"We started too slow which hurt us in the end,” he said.
"It is hard chasing 3-0 from half-time but it was a great effort in the second half and we were unlucky to snatch one at the end to make it 3-all.
"You got to take your opportunities in finals football and at the end of the day, we couldn't just take as many as they did today.”
He said he was proud of his team’s second-half resurgence.
"We all put in, in that second half,” he said.
"We have had a great year as a team and we came home in that second half but 3-0 is just too good a head start.”
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