Sixth-placed Wagga United have kept their premiership dreams alive after downing Tolland 4-2 in a frantic elimination final at Rawlings Park.
United were kept scoreless in the first half before producing a four-goal blitz in the second term to send the third-placed Wolves packing on Sunday afternoon.
The match kicked off 30 minutes late due to a need for extra time in the South Wagga-Tolland Gardiner Shield clash and both teams shot out of the blocks with the sense of urgency befitting finals football.
Richard Skidmore set the tone for his Wolves in the 15th minute with a classy goal to open their account and take the early lead.
Skidmore had another chance just three minutes later after connecting with a Jason Cuttle corner but the shot flew high over the crossbar.
The 1-0 margin held until half time, at which point United coach Travis Weir decided enough was enough.
“We had a big chat at the break and put a few home truths out there because we didn’t have that determination out there,” Weir said.
“It was probably the worst half of footy we’ve put together all year … so we changed up the structure and had a think about why we were there.”
The “home truths” worked wonders for United with skipper Lincoln Weir converting a free kick in the 52nd minute to lock things up at 1-all.
Cuttle hit back with a free kick of his own just nine minutes later as the Wolves pulled ahead 2-1 with roughly 30 minutes to play.
Enter Nazar Yousif.
With the match in the balance, Yousif clicked into gear up front for United and turned the game on its head with a quickfire brace.
I thought Jacob Sadler-Knight had a strong game and Dan Cain was a superstar out thereWagga United coach Travis Weir
The striker’s first goal in the 64th minute got United back on level pegging and a second goal just five minutes later saw the men in orange take a stunning 3-2 lead in with 25 minutes left on the clock.
Tolland looked to regroup and find star striker Jaiden O’Brien with a series of long bombs but United’s defence held firm as the final whistle drew near.
Any hope of a late resurgence was snuffed out in the 88th minute when Adam Holmes weaved his way through Tolland’s tiring back line and scored one of the best individual goals of the season, sealing United’s semi final berth and ending the Wolves’ season in the process.
“Honestly, we still had opportunities that we should’ve taken in the second half, but I’m pleased with the win,” Weir said.
“I thought Jacob Sadler-Knight had a strong game and Dan Cain was a superstar out there.
“Jack Schein had another good game as well as did Liam Brown.”