Newly crowned first division premiers Coffs United celebrate its thrilling 3-2 grand final victory against Northern Storm.
Newly crowned first division premiers Coffs United celebrate its thrilling 3-2 grand final victory against Northern Storm. Rob Wright

Courageous Lions crowned champions

COFFS United has done it again to take out this year's NCF Men's First Division title.

The Lion's triumphed 3-2 against a valiant Northern Storm after extra time at BCU International Stadium in a match which had more twists and turns than a Hitchcock film.

Built up to be a thrilling encounter, spectators were gifted with a match which will be remembered for years to come as one of the best in the competition's history

Littered with great goals, cracking sequences of play, hardnosed defending and plenty of controversy, the clash was a fitting way to wrap up this year's season.

Forced to battle on for over 40 mins with only 10 players on the paddock, Coffs United proved despite its hiccups this season they still are the premier football side on the North Coast.

"What a match, it had absolutely everything. It was bizarre," Coffs United Coach Mike smith said.

"Every time I thought we had taken control of the match the game would completely change.

"The boys dug in deep and having to go the distance in such a draining clash goes to show the sort of players they are."

"I'm overjoyed with the win. We worked hard this year and while some things didn't pan out the boys demonstrated their ability to perform in the big games."

From the opening whistle it was clear the developing rivalry between these two clubs had reached fever pitch as both the Storm and the Lions refused to take a backward step.

Often grand finals can be a dour affair with teams more worried about losing than winning however in this match the focus was squarely on attack.

End to end action had the fans eyes glued to the field yet it took until the 25th minute for the deadlock to be broken when Nathan Silvy struck with a sublime finish following an incredible display of ball control from teammate Nick Lambert. The goal giving Coffs United a 1-0 lead.

The Storm silenced the opposition supporters within seconds to pounce on a rare error from Coffs keeper Josh Wiseman when Dylan Loudon poked home from close range to level the scores at 1-1.

The goal spree continued minutes later with Coffs United taking the lead for the second time in the match after 33 minutes.

Lion's talismanic striker Ben Mackay heading home at the near post from Scott Goddard's looping cross to make it 2-1.

"I Think we deserved to go into the break with a lead," Smith said.

"I wasn't too disappointed by conceding the soft goal however I was impressed with how all the players got to work straight away to regain the lead."

Despite being behind on the scoreboard, Northern Storm knew  they were a few fortunate bounces away from taking control of the match.

Twelve minutes into the second half the lucky bounce arrived for the Storm and they didn't miss the opportunity.

A ghosting run to the far post from Storm midfielder Jamie Kennedy left him unmarked and able to score unchallenged leaving the match deadlocked once again at 2-2.

Trading chance after chance no side wanted to be the bridesmaid and looked desperately for a winner.

In the 76th minute it all went pear shaped for the Lions when a bizarre brain snap from Mackay saw him push the storm's Brandon Myers to the ground.

Referee Bruce Mackie didn't hesitate in brandishing the red card consigning Mackay to an early shower and Coffs United to battle on with a man down.

"I don't know what he was thinking," Lions gaffer Smith said.

"Ben is such an experienced player and with the game sitting on the edge it just bemused me he let himself get caught up in the situation.

"Had we not won it could easily have gone down as the grand finale he lost. "

Despite wave after wave of Korora based attack, the 10 man Lions found a way to create a few chances of its own.

As the time on the clock decreased it became clearer and clearer 90 minutes of football would not be enough to decide a victor.

With two fresh substitutes up their sleeve and the player advantage, Northern storm went into the first period of extra time with all the momentum.

Incredibly it proved redundant as Coffs United took the lead in odd circumstances.

A low and hard Sam Mackay cross deflected off the chest of a Storm defender and into the back of the net giving the reigning premiers a much needed one goal lead with only 20 minutes of extra time left.

The goal lifted the Lion's spirits and saw them scrap for the ball with every ounce of energy they had left.

Despite throwing everything forward Northern Storm couldn't level the scores for the third time in the match.

"It just wasn't our night," Storm coach Jade Porter said.

"We gave it everything and I thought at times the game was ours for the taking however unfortunately it just wasn't to be.

"Like all our games with the Lions this season they pushed us to the limit.

"After winning the Minor premiership to lose in a grand final is a hollow feeling."

Lions coach Smith paid tribute to the fighting spirit of his players.

"There were so many different moments in the game when things went against us but the boys kept going," he said.

"Whether it was refereeing decisions or other moments in the game they didn't drop their heads and it is a real sign of character.

"The players really earned this win and they deserve to celebrate."

COFFS UNITED 3 (N Silvy 25' B Mackay 33'  M Watson OG 104') d NORTHERN STORM 2 (D Loudon 26' J Kennedy 56')

Yellow Cards - Coffs United: 1 (N Silvy) Northern Storm: 5 (L Winkler N Skinner D Loudon B Myers R Yarnton)

Red Cards - Coffs United 1 (B Mackay) Northern Storm 0

Referee: Bruce Mackie

Assistant Referees : Dave Thorn Jason Hillier

At BCU International Stadium, Coffs Harbour.



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