South Coast Wolves survived NSW Premier League relegation by the skin of their teeth on Sunday.
Needing to overcome a nine point deficit to the Central Coast Mariners Academy heading into the final round of the season, the Wolves picked up maximum points in the lower grades before coming from behind to secure a dramatic 2-2 draw in the top grade.
The results brought South Coast on level pegging with the Mariners in the Club Championship, but a count back on goal difference ensured the historic Illawarra club moved off the bottom of the table.
‘‘We showed up today,’’ Wolves skipper Jacob Timpano said.
‘‘Obviously nine points behind with all the different scenarios but we got off to a flyer with the under 18’s winning and the 20’s backing up.
‘‘It was a fantastic day and an emotional day because we worked so hard all year when we were up against it, but the boys put in.’’
‘‘It made our job easier that we knew that a draw or a win would keep us above them in the club championship.’’
Peter Simonoski put the restless Wolves faithful at ease seven minutes into the first grade fixture, when he pounced on a defence error from Ridge Mapu to give the South Coast the lead.
The strike awakened the travelling Mariners, as Adriano Pellegrino shot on goal before hammering in a cross that somehow found its way into the Wolves net.
Locked at 1-1, Pellegrino stamped his authority on the match with a spectacular curling effort that looped into the corner of Daniel Collison’s goal, putting South Coast on the brink of relegation.
The Mariners kept the Wolves under the pump for the remainder of the first half, before the half time whistle finally gave Richard Lloyd the chance to get his side back on track.
As is often the case in football, the coach’s chat inspired the South Coast to pursue an equaliser in earnest and it was no surprise when Ricky Zucco stepped up to the mark.
The precocious striker converted a 57th minute penalty to send the healthy Hooka Creek Road crowd into raptures and hand the Wolves a vital 2-2 draw.
‘‘We have copped a heap of penalties this year and it was very ironic that it was a penalty that was what kept us in the league,’’ Wolves coach Richard Lloyd laughed.
‘‘It was a gutsy game - I really wanted to win and finish ahead of them on the actual table.
‘‘It was a huge build-up and a really great feeling.’’