Douglas United Dragons hosted Marlin Coast Rangers in a knockout semi-final last night, the winner advancing through to the Grand Final to face Mareeba.
The Dragons were eager to improve, their loss last week to Mareeba was a stinging reminder of how tough the League is this season and they would need to go into this game more focused.
The first half started well for the Dragons. Rodrigo Navarro and Adrino Gualtieri were playing some great football on the left flank beating players and creating havoc for the Rangers defence, with the Dragons dominating both possession and territory. It took the Rangers twenty minutes to finally get into the game after their slow start, their speedy wingers were pushing down the flanks getting in behind the Dragons defence and cutting the ball back, but Adam Howell and Ben Syrett were well positioned to shut down any shots at goal.
In the 35th minute Navarro received the ball on the edge of the Rangers box and was bowled over by the Rangers Centre back which resulted in a penalty, Gualtieri confidently stepped up and slotted it in. Halftime.
The second half continued on from the first, Billy Pycroft in great touch in the middle of the park hogging possession and feeding the strikers. In the 60th minute Xavi Aranda who was having a strong game slotted the second with a neat finish.
Rangers were getting frustrated, lunging into tackles, two Dragons players were on the end of some dangerous tackles and carried off, the referee would need to keep the tension levels under control.
In the 70th minute the Rangers keeper came out to clear a through ball, Jamie Quinn was determined to get to it first, using his speed he got there and slid in to kick it past the advancing keeper.
With 20 minutes to go, the large crowd that turned out were in high spirits seemingly witnessing a convincing performance from their home side, but what was about to happen would stun them all!
In the 75th minute, a Rangers striker headed the ball towards the Dragons goal, it was palmed over the crossbar by the Dragons keeper, the resulting corner wasn’t dealt with by the Dragons defence and in the melee in front of goal it was headed in for Rangers first.
Unbelievably in the 83rd minute another Rangers goal, from a corner the ball was not dealt with by the Dragons defence, a high powerful shot from close range hit the crossbar, the ball bounced down, crossed over the line then bounced back out.
With only five minutes to go, the Dragons were hanging on, Rangers had grown another leg, they seemed determined to do the unthinkable and salvage a game that was seemingly out of reach.
With one minute to go, the Rangers were given a free kick on the edge of the Dragons goal box. The ball was curled in to the near post, through a Rangers pair legs, through a Dragons pair of legs and trickled into the net!
Rangers players were going berserk, Dragons players wondering what had happened in the last fifteen minutes!
Fulltime, with extra time.
The first half of extra time was evenly contested, both sides attacking, the game was end-to-end and on a hot night, players were struggling with fatigue. Still 3-3 after the first fifteen minutes.
The second half of extra time saw a few more cracks in both defences, fitter players pushing forward taking advantage of the tired legs. Gualtieri came close with a volley from the left which was well saved and Aranda through on goal but his shot off the leg off the Rangers goalie. Five minutes to go in the game, and then it would be a penalty shoot-out. Rangers were starting to find room in the Dragons goal box, their skilful strikers making the most of the tired Dragons defenders. Another push down the right flank from Rangers, the ball crossed back into the striker in the Dragons box, he moved across the face of goal turned on the penalty spot and his accurate shot just in inside the post.
Dragons pushed hard in the last two minutes, but couldn’t get the equaliser. A gallant effort from the Dragons, the fifteen minute lapse late in the second half cost them the game. The Rangers side need to be applauded for not giving up even when the game seemed out of their grasp. An exciting spectacle for the fans even though it wasn’t the result they wanted!
This was the last home game for the Dragons this season, so we would like to take the opportunity to extend a big thank you to our supporters, volunteers and sponsors. A special mention for Mathew Smith, our Club Manager, who worked tirelessly to cater and run the bar for all our games.
Dragons will play the Townsville Second Division winners in Townsville on the 7th November, 2020 for the Crad Evans trophy which the Dragons have won the last two years, both times winning on penalties.