The Kempsey Saints reserve grade side produced a brilliant defensive display to book their place in the Premier League grand final on Saturday September 23.
The 1-0 victory over the Forster-Tuncurry Tigers was hard fought, with the Saints spending the majority of the game on the back foot.
After an evenly matched opening 15-minutes, the Saints caught a break as a Tigers player handballed inside his own 18-yard box, resulting in a penalty for Kempsey.
Mitch Clarke was the man to step up and he made no mistake, giving his side the lead which they never relinquished.
The two sides took turns creating attacking opportunities but Saints coach Kevin Sinclair admitted his team was under the pump.
“We didn’t plan on parking the bus but it’s what we essentially did,” Sinclair said.
“It’s a credit to our defence to be able to hold them out.
“But we thought we would need another goal to win, at half-time I was telling the boys they need to keep going forward because a 1-0 scoreline wasn’t going to cut it.”
Fortunately for the Saints, Sinclair’s prediction was wrong and they were able to hold onto their narrow lead, however it didn’t come without a massive scare.
The tables turned with a referee pointing to the spot after a Kempsey handball inside the 18-yard box.
Saints goalkeeper Jacob Little was up to the task as he dove to his left and prevented the ball from hitting the back of the net.
The heroics from Little, who was nominated man of the match, gave his side the energy to defend the final 20-minutes of the contest.
“It was a big lift for us while it was pretty deflating for them,” Sinclair said.
The victory means the Saints will face the winner of the Tigers and Macleay Valley Rangers preliminary final match which is held this Saturday at Dangar St Oval.
“Myself and Matt Baker will be watching the match with a keen eye and we will decide on our tactics depending on who we are facing,” Sinclair said.
The Saints received their minor premiership medals prior to the match on Saturday and Sinclair said it was extra special after they were stripped of their medals due to a team sheet error in 2015.