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MOE United gave Sale a taste of its own medicine yesterday to take out the Gippsland Soccer League grand final, scoring twice on the counter attack to deny the Swans back-to-back premierships.
Second half strikes to Matt Shearing and substitute Brent Charleston secured a 2-0 victory for the Red Devils, who snared a piece of silverware for the second consecutive season.
Moe coach Lee Dastey said the ironic outcome, which saw the Reds profit in Sale’s area of expertise, was a welcome outcome after a gruelling league championship defence.
“I wouldn’t say it was a plan (to counter-attack) but we did talk about them being good on the break, very fast on the break, so we’d be wary of that, but I guess our goals sort of turned out that way,” Dastey said.
“It was a tough game, but we defended really well. We knew once we went one up, we keep a clean sheet, we win the game and we managed to do that and nab another one.
“It’s a lot of hard work for the boys so it’s good to get something out of the season.”
Both sides went into the game without their regular skippers and star midfielders; Swans captain Ash Ross was sidelined with an apparent leg injury while league best and fairest Marc Mchallam was missing through suspension.
The Swans caught Moe napping within the first minute of play, when Dean Nichols was fed a sumptuous through ball to break clean on goal, but his shot was parried by Peter Albanese and he put the rebound wide.
The Reds then clicked into gear and controlled possession and territory for the next 25 minutes, with a Luke Bathgate volley from an Ash Birrell corner almost finding the net on the 10 minute mark.
Moe continued to press with ball after ball swung into the penalty area, and a back post chance from a long Joel Baldwin throw-in caused Sale centre back Robbie Stephen to beg the Swans to “switch on”.
While Moe looked threatening in the final third the quality of the last pass was lacking at the other end, with the Swans unable to crack Moe’s back four.
Sam Gatpan had a chance to put Moe up on 36 minutes, when a neat turn left him one-on-one with Swans keeper Chris Richardson, but the charging custodian was up to the test on the edge of the area.
A botched Moe clearance gifted Nichols a long range shot on goal with Albanese well out of position, but the strike lacked venom and the Moe number one cleaned up the mess with relative calm.
Sale finally found its groove in the final five minutes of the half, when some neat work from Scott Frendo medallist Tommy Nguyen and Nathi Khamchom saw the Swans switch from right to left and win a free kick 25 yards out, while Nick Dastey saw yellow for his challenge.
Nguyen slammed the resulting set piece into the left post, with Nichols helplessly kneeing the rebound over the bar from close range after an unkind bounce as it remained 0-0 at half-time.
A pair of Moe volleys inside the 18 yard box almost put the Devils ahead five minutes into the second half as Richardson was kept on his toes.
The big keeper was called into action again early in the second half, collecting a dangerous cross only to collide with two players and was grounded for several minutes.
Kristian Phillips was introduced down the right flank for Sale on 57 minutes, as the Swans mounted a period of pressure on Moe’s goal.
The prolonged attack came at a cost, as Moe pinched the ball under duress and unleashed Shearing on the counter, who ran 35 metres to slot home in the far corner.
With a 1-0 lead in hand Moe striker Luke Bathgate made way for Charleston, while Slade Whitfield was brought on to spark Sale’s forward line with Jon Piefke looking flat.
Gatpan stole the show with a darting run past four defenders, and nearly a fifth before being shut down by the last line of defence, and should have put his side 2-0 up moments later when a deflected cross fell to his feet only to spray his effort.
However, the Devils wrapped things up on 84 minutes when Charleston deftly controlled a long cross to fire past Richardson and make it 2-0, which it remained at the final whistle.
Sale played well in patches but looked out of sorts for the majority of the match, with Nguyen dashing at times but lacking the finishing touch, Ray Allred making uncharacteristic errors and the final pass always wayward.
The Swans’ 10 entries into the Moe 18 yard box were rarely dangerous, while Moe’s 19 forward forays were generally the opposite.
The result means that for the second year running each senior trophy will have been won by a different side, with Sale United to face Falcons 2000 in the Battle of Britain cup decider this weekend.
In the women’s final undefeated Tyers SC rounded out the season with the premiership cup, but was tested by a defiant Fortuna 60 in a 3-1 result.
East Gippsland United tasted success in its first central division season, winning the reserves final 1-0 over Churchill.