Albury City and Wangaratta booked their places in this year’s AWFA senior women’s cup final in very different fashion at Jelbart Park on Sunday.
The unbeaten league champions were too strong for St Pats, controlling the majority of the game to run out 3-0 winners, while Wangaratta left it until the dying stages to secure a 2-1 victory against Albury United.
Wangaratta clung to a 1-0 lead at the break through a first half strike from Leanne Branson.
The Devils continued to defend well in the second stanza, but eventually let United through on the break where Alicia Torcaso struck to level the contest inside the final 10 minutes.
Just as it appeared destined to head to extra time, Branson put away her second after a scramble in the box from a corner to send her side to the cup final.
Wangaratta coach Tom Marshall said it was nerve-wracking to watch.
“I knew what (Albury United coach) Tony (Cigana) was going to do and I knew that if I could keep Alicia and Molly (Goldsworthy) quiet, we’d win the game,” he said.
“We cut them out of the game in the first half, but they brought Zarlie (Goldsworthy) up front as well and we were still coping fine.
“Our midfield then tired and we fiddled around with it too much and got caught on the break.
“I think United were almost relieved they had drawn level and we woke up and started to get a lot more possession and scored from a corner.
“We nicked them in the league and we nicked them in the semi-final and that's the way the year has been.”
Marshall is now relishing the opportunity to meet Albury City in the cup final in what will be the sixth meeting between the two sides this season.
“We’ve got nothing to lose and they’ve got everything to lose,” Marshall said.
“The pressure is on them because they lost it to Boomers last year and they don’t want to lose it to us this year.”
Cigana felt his side lost the game in the first half with several missed chances on goal.
“At the end of the day, they defended well, we attacked and kept going to the end,” Cigana said.
“It was hard, honest football and I couldn’t have done anything differently.
“I’ve got a very young side and there’s plenty coming through the ranks, but we’re starting to get a lot of experience and that’s going to hold us in good stead for the next few years.
“Experience is a big thing in finals.
“To me, it’s been a successful season, I’m happy with where the girls are at the club.”
Albury City moved into the decider thanks to a brace from star midfielder Bridget McDiarmid and another quality finish from Amy Martin.
McDiarmid opened the scoring in the 26th minute and Martin doubled City’s advantage less than 10 minutes later.
St Pats continued to absorb more pressure in the second half before McDiarmid put it beyond doubt with her second 15 minutes from full-time.
City captain Haley Morris was pleased with the performance.
“You can never take a win for granted, so all the girls put in 100 per cent and we were lucky enough to come away with the win,” Morris said.
“It’s never an easy game against Patties, they always push us and are quick to apply the pressure.”
Morris admitted she would love nothing more for her side to bounce back from last year’s cup final defeat to Boomers, but knows it won’t determine their season.
“They (Wangaratta) are a very physical side and I can guarantee it will be a tough match next week,” she added.
St Pats coach Josh O’Farrell believes his side has taken another step forward this season and should be proud of what they’ve achieved.
“Albury City are a quality side, they got the better of us and will go a long way towards winning it,” he said.
“We probably lacked a bit muscle with Raq (Vogel) being out today, she calms all the girls a little bit.
“Our girls have played out of their skin this year, we’ve managed to beat nearly every team at least once and we finished top-four with a positive goal difference.
“All the things we set out to do at the start of year, we’ve managed to achieve.
“It might have been 10 years ago that the senior ladies last made a semi-final, so for these girls it was a really good effort.”
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