Henwood Park have ridden the spectacular last-minute exploits of new coach Matt Menser and stand-in goalkeeper David Rainbird to the Pascoe Cup premiership.
With Henwood down 4-3 and their backs against the wall in the final minutes of extra time, Menser rose to the occasion and curled in an angled free kick from well outside the box to tie the game.
It came just moments after Lake’s Henri Gardner appeared to have won the game for the Sharks with a devastating goal at the other end.
With the game going to penalties and Henri Gardner again stepping into the spotlight to take a spot kick he needed to make in order to stay alive, it was Rainbird’s time to shine.
The last-minute replacement, who was backing up from a reserve grade premiership and filling in for Nathan Trinder (ankle) at the eleventh hour, somehow saved Gardner’s strike to clinch the title and emerge as an unlikely hero, Henwood’s players swamping him in wild scenes of celebration.
It was Rainbird’s second penalty save of the shootout, and third of the game.
Coach Matt Menser, a premiership winner with Lake Albert last season, said he was both delighted and relieved after the game, also heaping praise on his heroic keeper.
“He was absolutely fantastic,” Menser said.
“To play 90 minutes in reserves, 90 minutes in first grade and save three penatlies is unbelievable.”
Tight-angled goals were the story of the first-half, Henwood striker Jake Ploenges getting the scoring underway in the 18th minute with a centimetre-perfect shot from the left side.
Man of the match Carl Pideski doubled the lead 15 minutes later, this time from the other side and on an even tighter angle, scoring from a seemingly impossible position.
Lake Albert could have struck back through a Henri Gardner penalty, but his shot was saved by Rainbird.
But Lake’s Justin Curran made amends for his teammate with an incredibly tight goal of his own to keep Lake alive at 2-1 just before half-time.
Menser got Henwood back on top in the 57th minute, finding himself in a one-on-one with Sharks keeper Mitch Tinnock running out at him, before tapping the ball past him and celebrating well before it finally trickled into the net.
But Lake Albert substitute Matt Hof refused to say die, finishing a classy header in the 74th minute to have the scoreboard reading 3-2.
Hawk Ben Bedwell was then whistled for a handball in the box, and Justin Curran made no mistake from the spot to tie the score at 3-3 and ultimately force extra time.
Lake striker Henri Gardner looked to have won the game for his side when he scored from a Fred Gardner cross late in the piece.
But that was before Menser forced penalties.
The rest was history.