Young Lions and Wagga United will head into this year’s Pascoe Cup finals series on level pegging after playing out a tentative 1-all draw in their last regular season fixture on Saturday night.
The two sides had already booked their tickets to the elimination finals and played with an air of caution in slippery conditions at Rawlings Park.
Both teams were resting players in preparation for the upcoming finals and Young coach Mark Mellish said it was clear neither side were playing at 100 per cent.
“Dead-rubber probably isn’t the right term but it kind of had that feel about it,” Mellish said.
“We really didn’t want injuries or any more cards so we changed things around a bit and we knew the result wouldn’t have changed anything much with regards to finals.
“By all means, we still wanted to win and it would’ve been great to get three points and try to lock in fourth place.
“At the end of the day, we’re still playing finals and it’s a huge achievement seeing as though we were bottom of the table last year.”
The game nevertheless showed glimpses of brilliance with both sides firing off a flurry of early shots at goal.
Young skipper Duncan Cameron took a lusty swipe inside the opening minute before Ben Smith sent an Alec Hope corner over the crossbar for United’s first real chance.
A scoreless deadlock set in as both sides probed for attacking opportunities and United received a further blow Patrick Chambers succumbed to injury
Chambers’ exit brought under 20s Wanderers skipper Zac Pinney into the fold as half time rolled around without a goal.
It was Cameron who eventually broke the shackles in the 58th minute, pouncing on a loose ball and finishing off a strong Lions counterattack with a shot that slipped past Andrew McCracken.
United coach Travis Weir responded with a tactical change, shifting Tyler Allen from centre back into an attacking role, and the move paid dividends in the 70th minute when Allen found the net with a left-foot rocket that shot past Mitch Cameron.
The goal lifted the spirits of United’s small but vocal support crew on the sidelines but neither side could find a winner in the dying minutes with Pinney spraying a late chance.
Young’s Patrick Hislop was subbed off with injury during the first half but Mellish is confident his midfielder will be fit for next week’s elimination final against Leeton United.
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