Trailing 1-0 with less than a minute remaining, you could forgive Mitch Tinnock for tearing his hair out during Lake Albert’s semi-final clash with Wagga United.
Yet the Sharks, as they have consistently done throughout the season, found a way to win the unwinnable on Sunday afternoon.
With the clock ticking inexorably towards a stunning United victory, Fred Gardner’s 93rd minute corner effort found the boot of Nick Anderson and rocketed past Andrew McCracken, squaring things up at 1-all mere seconds before the referee called full time.
Anderson’s goal was the most dramatic twist of a memorable semi final but it wasn’t the first and it certainly wasn’t the last.
Lake Albert entered the contest as firm favourites despite having shared points in a 1-all draw during their last encounter and backed it up with a dominate first half performance at Leeton Sports Ground.
United occasionally found themselves with the pill but it was largely one-way traffic as the Sharks surged early.
Multiple corners and a disallowed goal to Henri Gardner saw Lake Albert pile on the pressure deep inside United territory and only a scrambling defence led by Liam Brown kept the Sharks at bay.
Frustrations threatened to boil over for Lake Albert as United held out wave after attacking wave, prompting a string of low percentage scoring attempts from Fred Gardner which left the Sharks open to counterattacking opportunities late in the half.
United bravely took the deadlock into half time and burst back into the second stanza with renewed vigour, shifting the momentum in their favour with a quick free kick in the 55th minute.
Their positive play was eventually rewarded when Nazar Yousif found himself in space and beat Hayden Callender for the game’s first goal after more than an hour’s play.
We really deserved it and we’ve been so consistent this year, so I’m thrilled to be through to the grand final.Lake Albert coach Mitch Tinnock
The lead looked destined to last as full time loomed large but Anderson’s last-gasp goal sunk United’s spirits and Lake Albert proved unstoppable in extra time.
Anderson scored his second just eight minutes into extra time and when Kane Baumer converted a spot kick with two minutes remaining, it was game over.
“That was an amazing game, probably the biggest roller coaster of my life,” Tinnock said.
“We really deserved it and we’ve been so consistent this year, so I’m thrilled to be through to the grand final.”
Tinnock heaped praise upon Anderson’s clutch double, branding his first goal a “high-pressure effort”.
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