Woolgoolga seal fourth spot
WOOLGOOLGA Wolves hosted Sawtell Scorpions in what was another must win North Coast Football League game for the Wolves to wrap up fourth spot on the ladder.
With Sawtell in excellent form it was always going to be a close, tough encounter that was sure to keep both sets of supporters on the edge of their seats.
The early exchanges were very even with both sides probing for potential weaknesses.
The game continued in this vain for the next 35 minutes with both sides struggling in the very warm conditions to stamp their authority on a game.
Neither side was playing the calibre of football they are capable of, however this all changed soon after when Sawtell launched a precision attacking move which put their striker into space inside the box only to be fouled by the Wolves sweeper.
The Wolves supporters held their collective breaths as the Sawtell striker having sent the keeper the wrong way hammered the ball over the bar.
While this Houdini escape should have stirred the Wolves into action it was the Scorpions who put aside the disappointment and dominated play up until half time.
While the Wolves have not enjoyed a lot of luck this year it was obvious that the wolf god was smiling on them and Sawtell were desperately unlucky not to be at least two up at half time.
The Wolves half time discussion was based on getting back to basics, holding possession and creating options off the ball.
But is it any wonder that coach's age visibly during a season as the Wolves seemed incapable of instituting half time instructions.
While not being privy to Sawtell's words of wisdom they certainly came out full of running and continued to dominate play and created several tremendous opportunities only to see the last pass or the strike on goal go astray.
Sawtell's dominance continued until the 70th minute when on the break against the run of play Wolves attacking midfielder Anthony Baston was put into space only to shoot wide of the target.
Ten minutes later the Wolves created another great opportunity against the run of play but again failed to find the target.
Sawtell continued to play the better football and it only seemed a matter of time before they converted their dominance into goals.
At the 85th and 86th minute Sawtell created two fantastic scoring chances only to see the ball fly wide of the goals.
One sensed that the frustration of not being able to convert opportunities into goals was starting to weigh heavily on Sawtell shoulders and that it would come back to haunt them.
And haunt them it did with only seven minutes to go the Wolves put on an excellent attacking move with precision passing between attacking midfielder Anthony Baston and livewire striker Rick Barnier resulting in an excellent lay off to man of the match Craig Gralton who made no mistake in firing in a low well placed drive which gave the keeper no chance.
Wolves up 1-0 and the faithful were howling but could they hang on?
Sawtell to their credit threw everything at the Wolves in the last seven minutes but as had been the case all game they just couldn't convert the pressure into goals.
When the referee blew the final whistle The Wolves had prevailed in a game where they rarely played at their best, but as someone once said it is the mark of a good side when you can fashion a win out of a poor performance.
Our thanks to Sawtell who play the game in great spirit and are a pleasure to host.
Woolgoolga look forward to meeting them in the semi finals where supporters will be treated to another outstanding game of football.
The Wolves next hurdle is the postponed fixture against the Urunga Raiders set down for Tuesday night at Urunga, we urge all the Wolves faithful to get there in numbers to support the boys in what should be a memorable clash.
In reserve grade, Sawtell won 2-1.