SOMERVILLE Eagles are the toast of local soccer after clinching the State 5 South championship last Saturday.
And the side jointly led by coach Scott Morrison and player-coach Dave Greening did it in style with a gutsy away win against Bunyip District Strikers.
Somerville was forced to play most of the contest with 10 men after Matt Swanson reacted to a bad challenge by throwing the ball at his opponent and being sent off in the 22nd minute.
The champion elect had taken the lead in the 9th minute when a Luke Hodge flick-on was clinically finished by Greening.
But a goalkeeping error by Nathan Brown allowed Bunyip’s Gareth Davies to equalise in the 20th minute with a long-range effort.
A Ben Meiklem cross rebounded off the crossbar right on half-time and Greening reacted quickest to restore Somerville’s lead.
Daniel Vigilanti equalised straight after the restart but a superb Callum Richardson volley in the 62nd minute made it 3-2 and when Greening notched his hat-trick in the 70th minute Somerville supporters knew that the club’s first ever State League championship was in touching distance.
The final whistle was the cue for celebration among Somerville players, coaching staff, committee and fans and for veteran striker Mark Pagliarulo it was a special moment as it was his first trophy of any kind in 17 seasons.
Co-coach Dave Greening was full of praise for the players and for the off-field support he had received.
“Scott, Stan (Packer) and myself are so proud of all the boys,” Greening said.
“We had a two-year plan when we came here and we’ve been able to achieve our aims.
“The spirit here is incredible and I particularly want to thank Craig Bozelle, Luke Mulder and Zach Peddersen who do a remarkable amount of work for this club.”
In NPL2 news Langwarrin lost 2-1 away to Manningham United Blues on Saturday.
Langy was 1-0 down when defender Jaiden Madafferi was given a straight red in the 42nd minute.
Substitute Damir Stoilovic scored Langy’s consolation goal in the 93rd minute.
Scottish striker John Baird is expected to head back to the UK next week to take up a short-term deal with Raith Rovers but hopes to return to Melbourne early next year.
In State 1 news Mornington lost 5-1 away to league leader Nunawading City last weekend.
Mornington is in transition as the club tries to integrate younger players into its matchday squad however the loss to Nunawading was the club’s 10th this season, the most defeats it has recorded in a single season for at least 15 years.
In State 2 news Peninsula Strikers lost 2-1 away to North Caulfield on Sunday despite going 1-0 up after five minutes thanks to Grant Lane.
Strikers will be aiming to finish in the top half of the table and play a major role in the promotion outcome when they host second-placed South Springvale this weekend.
In State 3 news Skye United is now just one win from promotion after defeating Frankston Pines 2-0 at Skye Recreation Reserve on Friday night.
A man-of-the-match performance from keeper Jonathan Crook kept Pines at bay.
The hosts hit the front in the 15th minute when Jason Nowakowski broke through into a one-on-one and squared the ball for a simple tap in for striker Mitch Blake.
Five minutes later Blake turned provider as he lashed the ball across the face of goal and Nowakowski finished well to make it 2-0.
The second half was a different story as Pines gained the upper hand and put Skye under the pump.
Crook was immense and even saved from the penalty spot in the 82nd minute after Billy Painting was judged to have fouled inside the box.
The Kiwi keeper won the Chris Attard Medal while Kevin Brown was judged best afield for Pines.
Teenage Pines defender Christian Malgioglio was stretchered off shortly after Nowakowski’s goal and taken by ambulance to Frankston Hospital.
As we went to press he was due to have an MRI scan to ascertain the extent of the injury to his left knee.
In State 4 news Baxter won the derby clash with Seaford United 2-0 at North Seaford Reserve on Saturday.
The scoreline could have been more convincing for the visitors had Lewis Gibson, Charlie Jones, Lawrence Komba and substitute Abdul Darmanii converted clearcut chances.
At times Seaford looked fragile at the back while rarely troubling Baxter keeper James Foster.
The one time Foster was called into the thick of the action he responded in style.
Seaford player-coach Matt Morris-Thomas had come off the bench in the 56th minute and in the 69th minute his clever curling free kick struck the base of the far post and bounced up where Kurt Wagner-Goldsworthy headed firmly from close range only for Foster to effect a superb reflex save by parrying wide for a corner.
Baxter led 2-0 at half-time and deservedly so.
Niko Juric’s free kick in the 11th minute was headed home by Baxter central defender Matt McDermott who had an excellent match.
Stuart McKenzie usually appears in centre midfield for Baxter but was used up front against Seaford and was a constant threat.
Baxter hit Seaford on the break after clearing a corner in the 35th minute and McKenzie broke through striking a low shot across Seaford keeper Anthony Madafferi and in off the far post.
Seaford huffed and puffed in the second half but to no effect.
Meanwhile Rosebud signed off on a successful first season in State 5 South with a thumping 6-1 home win over Hampton Park United.
First half doubles to Callum Norton and Blake Hicks had the home side in control at half-time and second-half goals from Beau Sharpe and Chris Parry completed the scoreline.
However, the day was soured by the abandonment of the reserves match when the referee was allegedly assaulted by a Hampton Park player who had been sent off.
Aspendale Stingrays claimed all three points in a nine-goal thriller at Power Reserve downing home side Endeavour Hills Fire 5-4 on Saturday.
The Stingrays twice came from behind in one of their best displays of the season.
After going 1-0 down in the 3rd minute they hit back to lead 3-2 at half-time thanks to a Kieran Hughes strike, a Nathan Barnett header and a penalty conversion from Kenan Nuhanovic whose initial attempt was parried only for him to tuck away the rebound.
The home side equalised early in the second half then took a 4-3 lead after 77 minutes when Eid Sarwari completed his hat-trick.
But the Stingrays hit back when Nuhanovic struck again following an Adrian Pace cross in the 82nd minute.
Just when a draw looked certain midfielder Rory Carmichael, who had been the Stingrays’ best player, settled the issue in the 90th minute from 10 metres out.
This week’s games for the final round of the season:
SATURDAY, 3pm: Langwarrin v Eastern Lions (Lawton Park), Mornington v Eltham Redbacks (Dallas Brooks Park), Peninsula Strikers v South Springvale (Centenary Park), Skye Utd v Monash Uni (Skye Recreation Reserve), Middle Park v Frankston Pines (Albert Park Field 16), Baxter v Springvale City (Baxter Park), Chelsea v Seaford Utd (Edithvale Recreation Reserve), Somerville v Casey Panthers (Tyabb Recreation Reserve), Rosebud v Pakenham Utd (Olympic Park), Aspendale v Knox Utd (Jack Grut Reserve).