Port ride momentum to seal berth in IPL GF

SEEING RED: Kemblawarra's Lachlan O'Connor attempts to make a challenge on Port Kembla's Cameron Morgan. Picture: Sylvia Liber.

SEEING RED: Kemblawarra's Lachlan O'Connor attempts to make a challenge on Port Kembla's Cameron Morgan. Picture: Sylvia Liber.

Momentum can come and go throughout the season, but Port Kembla have endeavoured to ride a wave of it at the right moment. 

Far from top-five certainties just eight weeks ago, the Zebras are now just 90 minutes away an unlikely Illawarra Premier League grand final crown after booking their spot in the decider to face Bulli.  

Port kept their title dream alive with a dramatic 2-1 extra time victory over Kemblawarra Fury at Memorial Park on Sunday afternoon.

Jayden Salucci’s 114th minute goal – his first in the top grade – proved the winner in a fiery encounter which saw both clubs finish the match without eleven men on the pitch.

Injury-hit Kemblawarra lost two players to red cards while Port’s also had a man dismissed. 

Salucci’s winner came with all three players off the paddock and provided Port with their third consecutive knockout win.  Coach Noel Spencer put Port’s run down to momentum, but said it wasn’t the only thing getting his troops over the line. 

“Momentum is one thing but it is also about belief and going that one step extra,” he said.

“I think we knew it was going to be a dogfight regardless of who was playing for the Fury because they’ve had that winning mentality for many, many years. We knew we had to do something special today to come away with the result. We showed tremendous character. ”

Port’s character was tested early on against the Fury. They went a goal down when Shane Murray fired a delightful first time effort into the bottom corner in the 27th minute.

That advantage held until the break before the match was turned on its head in the second half. Just three minutes in, Fury defender Lachlan O’Connor was red carded when he brought down Sandy Lowcock for what was deemed to be a last-man challenge. 

It swayed the ledger firmly in Port’s favour. They launched raid after raid in search of an equaliser and eventually found it through the head of Matt Werakso in the 67th minute.

Port sustained their pressure after the goal, but were unable to find a way past the Fury’s outstanding keeper Daniel Arcaba. He pulled off countless stunning saves, including a superb finger tip stop to deny Kyle Hazebroek’s in the final minute.

When extra time began, the drama continued. Ten minutes into the first addition period, Kemblawarra’s Sam Munro and Port’s Will Mobbs were both handed their marching orders for separate offences. 

Salucci’s winner came nine minutes later when the young gun looped his header into an empty net to bring the Fury’s season to a halt. Fury coach Luke McGuire was disappointed with the result and felt his side had Port under control before they went down to 10-men.

"I can't really say they put us under enormous pressure," he said. 

"The send off didn't help early in the second half. We started to lose a few troops. Steve Wright got out of bed today just to play. It is disappointing. All credit to them.”

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