Macleay Valley Rangers goalkeeper John Clancy produced two miraculous saves in a penalty shootout to be the hero as his side secured a 5-4 penalty shootout victory over Port United.
For the second time in this finals series, the Rangers and Port United finished regulation locked at 2-all. However, this time the sides couldn’t be split after extra-time and they headed for a nerve-wracking penalty shootout.
It was the Rangers who flinched first, as they missed their fourth penalty which opened the door for a United victory.
It also created the opportunity for an unlikely hero.
Clancy saved the United’s fourth attempt to level the shootout before he dove to his left to save Port’s sixth attempt and send the Rangers into pandemonium.
“After Clancy made the save, we just went crazy and the fans erupted,” Rangers coach Keith Morn said.
“It was another close game but I think we deserved the win.”
The Rangers conceded the opening goal inside the first 10-minutes.
A sloppy turnover in their own half gifted Port a quality chance and they took it with both hands.
The two teams exchanged opportunities throughout the remainder of the first half but neither made it count on the scoreboard.
However, similar to the major semi-final meeting between these two sides, the Rangers lifted in the second half and were rewarded with a penalty after Chad Applegate was brought down inside the 18-yard-box. John Henry converted to level the scores.
Less than 10-minutes later and the Rangers took their first lead of the contest as Kurt Riordan found the back of the net after a scramble inside the box.
The Rangers continued to press to double their advantage but weren’t able to capitalise.
The missed chances came back to haunt them as Port levelled the scores against the run of play with eight-minutes left.
The situation worsened for the home side as Kurt Riordan was given his marching orders after receiving his second yellow card.
The 10-man Rangers outfit scrambled well in defence to prevent United from stealing the game in regulation and extra-time.
The win secured Rangers’ first first grade grand final appearance since 2013.
“It’s a great feeling to know we will play in a grand final and it’s definitely exciting, but I am more happy for the players and glad they get to experience it,” Morn said.
“They have worked hard all season and they all got to this position because of the way they play and not because of what I have done as a coach.”
Standing in the club’s way of a premiership is Wallis Lake, an undefeated side which has defeated the Rangers four times this season.
To make the task harder for Macleay Valley, they will be forced to take the field without three quality players due to suspension.
Sam Applegate, Kurt Riordan and Brent Morn each received two or more yellow cards in the two finals games.
The Rangers are planning on fighting Sam’s suspension in an attempt to get him cleared for the decider.
“It’s a big loss losing those three players, especially Sam and Kurt,” Morn said.
“Being down two players from your starting side for a grand final isn’t ideal.
“We have other players who will step up and do the job for the team though.”
The Rangers do receive a boost though with stopper Ben Mitchell returning from suspension for the decider.
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