September 6, 2015
Saturday’s Grand Finals of the 2015 South Burnett Evolution Solar Football League competition provided some of best soccer seen on local parks this season.
It was a day of upsets and surprises, with Wests emerging as winners in two of the region’s three Divisions.
Nanango, who won all three Divisions in 2012 and both the First Division and Women’s Division in the 2013 and 2014 Grand Finals, were pruned back to just a First Division win this year.
But the near-capacity crowd that filled almost every parking space at Kingaroy’s Tom Alford Oval got to enjoy an afternoon and evening of hard fought, exciting, edge-of-the-seat football.
Both teams appeared very evenly matched, but neither side were able to find the back of the net.
On balance – given how often they stressed Wests’ defence near the goal-mouth – Gunners appeared the slightly better side on the day.
But while each team had several chances to score, neither could capitalise on them.
Since a draw is not an option in a Grand Final, 20 minutes of extra time were allotted after the full-time whistle was blown.
And when both sides remained scoreless, the game then moved to a tense penalty shoot-out which was ultimately won by Wests 5-4.
After the match, both captains said they thought a penalty shoot-out was a very unsatisfying way to end a match and said they’d prefer to play until they dropped.
But they paid tribute to one another for a tough but fair match that tested both sides to their limits.
The need to go to extra time and a penalty shoot-out delayed the second match of the day – the Women’s Division clash between the Nanango Panthers and Wests – by 45 minutes.
Panthers arguably went into the match as favourites.
The female Panthers had demolished Wests every time the two teams met this season, sometimes by a very large margin.
But Wests, who have improved steadily as the year progressed, were happy to show they weren’t easybeats. Nor were they going to be intimidated by the Panthers’ impressive track record.
And this soon became apparent as the game unfolded.
Panthers – many sporting the traditional blue hair dye the women’s side wear at every Grand Final – threw everything they could muster at Wests, launching one formidable attack after another.
But this time, unlike previous matches, they were unable to penetrate Wests’ defence. And by half-time the teams were tied at nil-all.
Four minutes into the second half, though, Tammy Rose found the back of the net for Wests and the on-field dynamic immediately changed.
The Panthers became ferociously eager to find an equaliser, and rather than dropping their heads the team’s energy seemed to visibly ramp up.
But Wests calmly matched them at every step, and when the full-time whistle sounded Panthers had been unable to improve on their position.
Wests, who lost to the Panthers at last year’s Grand Final due to an own goal, were understandably elated at the reversal in their fortunes this year.
And Panthers, who led the ladder throughout the season with some excellently played football and fought bravely throughout the game, were just as clearly devastated by their unexpected loss.
Both teams remained scoreless by the time the full-time whistle sounded, despite furious and fast-paced football which saw the ball repeatedly pass from one end of the field to the other, along with many on-field collisions and spills.
Once again, a nil-all score pushed the game into extra time.
And when the situation hadn’t changed by the second 10-minute half, Panthers supporters were clearly on a knife’s edge.
But in the 109th minute, a Kieran Mangan missile finally found the back of the net for the big cats and the terraces erupted with the cheers of relieved fans.
And when Harry Sterling repeated this result for the Panthers barely a minute later, Gunners’ hopes were completely dashed.
Afterwards both captains paid tribute to each other’s teams.
While Gunners were understandably disappointed to have had their game come to such a rapid end in the dying gasp of the match, they were pleased they pushed the Panthers to their utmost.
The Panthers, too, said they were impressed by Gunners’ tenacity and skill, and appreciated being stretched to their limits to secure victory on the day.
Game was drawn at 0-0 at end of normal time. Nanango scored twice in extra time.
Game was drawn at 0-0 at end of normal time and extra time, game went to penalty shoot-outs, final score was Wests 5 – Gunners 4