Premiership winners Wollongong Wolves gave their fans the victory lap they craved with a 1-0 win against Marconi Stallions at WIN Stadium on Sunday.
A late Thomas James penalty ensured the victory for the hosts rifling his effort into the bottom left-hand corner – and with that came the Golden Boot to the Englishman for 2019.
Marconi put up a tough fight but they were unable to secure the point required to secure a home final, instead finishing the season in fifth.
The result capped off an incredible regular season campaign for the Wolves who led the competition from start to finish.
It was the away side who showed the initiative in the early stages with James Andrew delivering several testing balls for the Wolves defence from the right-hand side.
However, in the 10th minute, the Wolves created one of their best chances of the half.
A quick throw-in from Brendan Low on the left-hand side found the feet of Lachlan Scott who deftly slipped a ball into the path of Jordan Nikolovski setting him through one-on-one.
Unfortunately for the Premiership Winners, Nikolovski’s touch was too heavy seeing the ball go out for a goal kick.
Ten minutes into the second period, league-leading scorer Thomas James almost had his 22nd goal of the campaign.
A corner floated in from the left-hand side dropped to James on the right-hand edge of the box.
He volleyed towards goal, however, a fantastic reaction save from Marconi custodian Nenad Vekic prevented the Englishman from claiming a goal.
In the 79th minute, Wollongong’s Harry Callahan was bundled over in the box presenting James with an opportunity to convert from the spot.
James stepped up and leathered a strike into the left-hand side of the net to give the hosts the lead.
Marconi thought they had found a late party spoiler when a ball in from the right-hand side found James Andrew who was denied from close range thanks to a heroic save from Luke Kairies in the Wolves’ goal.
Wollongong were able to hold on to secure a win on the final day of the season.
Wolves coach Luke Wilkshire praised his side’s performances this year and maintained that his side weren’t finished yet.
“For me, they have been the best side all year.
“We’re not satisfied yet we’ve still got to beat Sydney FC on Wednesday and then a win in the semi-final before the grand final.”
Meanwhile, Marconi captain Marko Jesic was disappointed with the result of the match and spoke about his side’s desire to maintain the way they have played this year heading into the finals.
“We were a bit hard done by with the penalty.
“We had enough chances to even win the game.
“We are not going to change anything… nothing changes like any other game.
“We go in with the same mentality.”
Wollongong Wolves 1 (James 81’)
Marconi Stallions 0
Sunday 11th August 2019
Win Stadium, Wollongong
Referee: T. Danaskos
Assistant Referees: M. McOrist and N. Wotton
Fourth Official: N. Ryan
Wollongong Wolves: 2. Taylor McDonald, 3. Darcy Madden, 4. Nikola Djordjevic, 6. Benjamin Tosi (20. Brandon Stojcevski 84’), 9. Thomas James, 10. Brendan Griffin, 12. Luke Kairies (GK), 14. Harry Callahan, 23. Jordan Nikolovski (11. Takeru Okada 64’), 24. Lachlan Scott (8. Bul Juach 72’), 25. Brendan Low
Substitutes Not Used: 1. Justin Pasfield, 13. Stefan Dimoski
Marconi Stallions: 1. Nenad Vekic (GK), 2. Nathan Millgate, 3. Giorgio Speranza, 7. Sean O’connell (9. Anthony Frangie 72’), 8. Connor Evans, 10. Marko Jesic, 12. James Andrew, 14. Peter Pelekanos (31. Christian Nascimben 91’), 16. Liam Youlley (30. Paolo Laxamana 58’), 19. Zach Cairncross, 23. Brandon Vella
Substitutes: Not Used: 17. Kristian Sekutkoski, 15. Lachlan Sepping
Yellow Cards: Youlley 34’, Pelekanos 41’, O’Connell 43’, Vekic 79’
Player Ratings have now been hidden due to the second half of the season commencing.
By National Premier Leagues NSW Reporter Timothy Gibson