Leeuwin juniors win thrilling grand final

Geoff WrightBusselton Dunsborough Times
The boys celebrated their win.
Camera IconThe boys celebrated their win. Credit: Supplied, Sherinne Armstrong

The Leeuwin Naturaliste Junior Soccer Association boy’s 11A team won the 11A division for a third year in a row at the Football West 2018 Country Week Tournament in Perth at the weekend.

The team took on teams from Bunbury, Albany, Kalgoorlie Goldfields, Karratha and Geraldton.

The boys played Albany in the grand final and the win signalled soccer in the region looked bright.

The team attended a three-week trial and were chosen from about 70 players.

They were coached by Glenn Armstrong and Andy Bee for 10 weeks of intensive training.

This year, the boys finished on top of the table after their eight rounds, with six wins and two draws having only conceded two goals.

The grand final was a nail-biter and the highlight of the week for the boys, some of whom had not played a grand final.

They played Albany in the final round, winning 4-1.

Ryan Armstrong claiming a kick from the opposition.
Camera IconRyan Armstrong claiming a kick from the opposition. Credit: Supplied, Sherinne Armstrong

However, both teams held back a few aces for the final and knew they would be a much fiercer opponent. The boys were relaxed before the final, happy they’d made the final.

They learned that if they relaxed and played the game with clear heads, it would flow for them.

The first half was an arm wrestle with both teams bringing defensive intensity yet playing some nice football considering the blustery conditions.

Picture: Sherinne Armstrong
Camera IconPicture: Sherinne Armstrong Credit: Supplied

The back line of Vickery twins Blake and Hunter with Eamon Cleaver was rock-solid and only allowed Albany a few half chances to score. Anything that did get through was calmly stopped by goalie Charlie Bee.

The mids were on top with Leonardo Marques dominating the left wing with defensive and offensive pressure.

Oscar Dombroski, Ryan Armstrong and Hudson Wright were solid and creative in the middle, and getting the ball forward to striker Matthew Sykes.

As the half progressed they started to build momentum and played better football when in possession, and applying fierce pressure when Albany had the ball.

Eamon Cleaver and Lenny Hemblen chase the ball.
Camera IconEamon Cleaver and Lenny Hemblen chase the ball. Credit: Sherinne Armstrong

Albany were placing our mids and defence under immense pressure yet the strength and intensity brought on by Lenny Hemblem meant we were pressing high and hard.

Noah Bedingfield came on for Matthew and was determined and creative up front.

Late in the first half, Matthew came back on and almost immediately Hudson played a ball through, which Matthew hit nicely for a goal.

The ball crossed the line and we were awarded the goal.

Albany came out firing in the second half, knowing they needed to score to stay in the game.

For most of the second half the local boys were on the back foot and struggled to manufacture any offensive pressure.

They remained focused on the task and did not crumble under the pressure.

Josh Teasdale started to win the battle on the left wing and Oscar and Ryan gained the ascendency through the middle.

Hudson Wright defending the ball with teammate Oscar Dombroski ready to defend.
Camera IconHudson Wright defending the ball with teammate Oscar Dombroski ready to defend. Credit: Supplied, Sherinne Armstrong

With only minutes remaining, Albany’s strike on goal deflected on to Hudson’s arm and a penalty was awarded.

The atmosphere was tense as Albany’s striker calmly slotted the penalty shot.

The remaining minutes of the half were frantic with neither team managing to crack the other.

The whistle blew and the game went into extra time.

The team created several scoring opportunities in the first period of extra time but couldn’t crack Albany’s goalkeeper.

The teams swapped ends and there were a few half chances but neither team looked like scoring.

With only 15 seconds left in the game, Ryan tackled and intercepted an Albany ball, swiftly passing it to Blake who sent a beautifully weighted and curving cross into the box. Hudson had found a small area of space near the back post, heading it straight into the back of the net.

The boy’s celebrated as everyone piled onto one another, and within seconds the ref blew his whistle for full time.

In a demonstration of utter determination and resilience, the boys pulled off a minor miracle in the final seconds of extra time to win the Grand Final.

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