Seven-year itch scratched

October 10, 2017

Joel Aitken (Usain Bolt) runs away from his premiership teammates after scoring the match-winning goal in extra time.

Toby Ferguson was prolific in an attacking midfield role.

Sean Grant had the ball on a string during Sunday's final.

Anthony Calandro, Sean Grant, Jesse Brun and Alpha Sheriff embrace at the final whistle.

Shepparton South has ended a seven-year drought to claim its inaugural Bendigo Amateur Soccer League League Cup grand final.

The Southerners came from behind in extra time to defeat minor premier Eaglehawk 2-1 at Epsom Huntly Reserve on Sunday.

Playing coach Joel Aitken, who found an extra yard of speed, scored the eventual match-winner in extra time, sending the travelling contingent into raptures.

‘‘We just dug deep, it was awesome for the boys and I am just stoked,’’ Aitken said.

‘‘We were probably unlucky not to win it in normal time, we created heaps of chances, Sean Grant was sensational, the boys at the back were good too.’’

Lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the attacking burden was left for Grant, Toby Ferguson and Jesse Brun to create behind Aitken, but it was the Scotsman who caused Eaglehawk the most headaches.

Grant had six sights at goal in regular time, striking the post once, while forcing three more saves out of Steve Christmas in goals.

South captain and 19-year-old central defender Tim Lardener was voted man-of-the-match by the referees for his stern performance in a dominant defence.

The grand final featured the league’s two leading goal-scorers, Greg Thomas and Aitken, and it was the latter, who gave his side the lead early in the second period of extra time.

Eaglehawk was within minutes of clinching the championship-grand final double after it finished two points clear of South.

Eaglehawk struck first in extra time when Ben Ingerson converted from the spot after Thomas was brought down inside the area by Nathan Radevski.

However, level-pegging was soon restored when substitute Willie Sauiluma’s cross deflected off an Eaglehawk defender and into the back of the net.

With a new lease on life South continued to push and Aitken, with fire in his feet, flew past the defender to latch onto a long ball before cooly putting South into the lead for the first time.

‘‘I was running on adrenaline, I have been at the club since I was 10 and this one definitely means the most,’’ Aitken said.

South resolutely held on for the final few minutes before claiming the inaugural BASL League Cup grand final, pleasing co-coach Radevski.

‘‘It is massive for the club, I am just delighted the boys got over the line,’’ Radevski said.

‘‘I gave away the penalty, I was stood up by Thomas but it was great to see the resilience in the group and their ability to continue to push on.’’

It is the first season Radevski and Aitken have been co-coaches at South and the former did credit the work of assistant Reno Lia.

‘‘It has been a huge year, at the start we were not going that well, but we have come a long way,’’ Radevski said.

‘‘Reno has been a huge help, he came in and gave us some guidance and settled us down a little.

‘‘I never imagined us winning it back then.’’

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