By Craig MacKenzie
A PATCHWORK Mornington put up a magnificent fight against Altona Magic only to go down 1-0 in Saturday’s State 1 final at Jack Edwards Reserve.
The game brought together the champions from both regionalised State 1 leagues but Mornington went into the clash without Simon and Scott Webster, Steve Elliott, Andrew Skledar and Chris Reid either through injury or unavailability.
One of the two players on the Mornington bench was teenager Charlie Parker and coach Adam Jamieson was forced to completely revamp his defence with Chris McKenna and Danny Black as central defenders and Paul McEvoy and Nathan Yole full-backs.
What proved to be the telling blow was struck in the 11th minute when Magic winger Adamson Ajayi cut in from the left and his deflected shot looped neatly over Mornington keeper Kris McEvoy and into the net.
Paul McEvoy got free on the right of the Magic area in the 25th minute and was played in by Shane Tagliaferro only to shoot into the side netting and Magic striker Jon McShane should have scored from point blank range in the 36th minute but Kris McEvoy somehow got a touch and deflected the ball for a corner.
Mornington striker Nick Waite was felled inside the area by the flailing elbow of Magic central defender Steven Thomson in the 39th minute but play was waved on as the Mornington bench erupted.
Just before the break Waite robbed a defender on the left of the area and decided to shoot from a tight angle but Magic keeper Sebastien Bechaud parried easily at the near post.
Mornington striker Brad Blumenthal was forced off at half-time with a shin injury and was replaced by Michael Freeman and the mountain Mornington had to climb grew even larger in the 66th minute after Black clattered into the back of McShane and received a second yellow and was sent off.
A minute later Waite hobbled from the field and Parker was thrust into the action.
Kris McEvoy was forced to tip over a McShane header in the 77th minute and three minutes later Nathan Yule came to his keeper’s rescue by heading off the line.
A long throw by Paul McEvoy in the 81st minute was headed on by Chris McKenna but Magic was able to scramble the ball clear, McShane had a free header shortly after but headed over then Mornington’s Wayne Gordon hammered a firm strike from the edge of the area that forced Bechaud to punch clear.
A mix-up between Thomson and Bechaud in the 89th minute allowed Gordon to nip in before being brought down inside the area and the referee immediately pointed to the spot.
Paul McEvoy struck a low shot to Bechaud’s left but the keeper was able to get down and palm the ball wide and the 10 men had missed a glorious opportunity to take the contest into extra time.
Rosebud Heart strolled into next weekend’s State 5 Victorian final after semi-final opponent Healesville forfeited late last week.
Healesville held its annual presentation night on the Friday before Saturday’s planned semi-final which was due for a noon kick-off.
Heart gaffer Scott Morrison was an interested onlooker at Saturday’s other State 5 semi that saw RMIT triumph 2-1 after extra time against North Melbourne Athletic.
Morrison is confident that Heart can maintain its perfect record and end a landmark season by winning next weekend’s final.
Skye United blew a two-goal cushion in Friday night’s State 4 semi-final against Brandon Park at Skye Recreational Reserve going down 3-2 after extra time.
Skye keeper Jonathan Crook was in the thick of the action early making some fine saves, two from long distance efforts by Brandon Park midfield dynamo Harrison Michaelis and Peter Smyth.
Skye clawed its way back into the contest in the last 15 minutes of the half and a minute from the interval Matthew Wilson struck a stunning long-range volley from 35 metres that left Brandon Park keeper Joshua Green clutching at air to give the home side a 1-0 lead.
Three minutes into the second half Brandon Park failed to deal with a long throw from the right and a close-range shot struck a defender and trickled over the line for an own goal and a 2-0 scoreline.
But Brandon Park supporters had their hopes raised two minutes later when a lay-off set up Smyth on his non-preferred right foot and his firm low shot from the edge of the area beat Crook who was at full stretch.
Fine close skills from James McNeill on the left in the 58th minute caught out the Skye defence but Crook parried McNeill’s 10-metre strike.
The equaliser came in the 82nd minute after a cross from livewire substitute Mourad Sarian on the right was headed back across goal into the far corner by Brandon Park striker Kegham Aminian.
The pivotal moment arrived 10 minutes into extra time when Aminian curled a superb strike past Crook to make it 3-2.
Two minutes later Skye substitute Luke Camerota cut the ball back from the right to Alex Roberts whose firm shot was parried by Green.
The Brandon Park keeper was again called into action shortly after when forced to tip over Marcus Collier’s header from a long throw-in.
For much of the second half of extra time Skye pumped long balls forward and the final moments were frantic as Crook charged into the opposition penalty area to contest a corner but to no avail.
Both coaches, Brandon Park’s Stan Webster and Skye’s Billy Armour, have enjoyed a lengthy friendship and embraced at the end of a gripping contest.
Just 12 months earlier they had guided their respective sides to safety in a bitter relegation battle so their championship successes in 2016 represent a remarkable turnaround in their club’s fortunes.
Peninsula Strikers ended the season by defeating visitor Noble Park United 2-1 on Saturday in a State 2 South-East catch-up game.
Dejan Blanusa had given the already relegated Noble Park United a 1-0 lead at the interval but second half goals from Jack Carter and Tom Hawkins settled the issue.
State 5 final: RMIT v Rosebud Heart, 3pm, Murphy Reserve, Port Melbourne.