Wollongong United coach Jeff Allport says his red-hot squad has growing belief they can go all the way in 2018 after a convincing 3-0 triumph over Albion Park White Eagles on Sunday afternoon.
Seven days after sending last season’s grand final winners Port Kembla packing, United ended the White Eagles campaign with a dominant performance at Tarrawanna Oval.
A double from Matthew McNab and a first half strike by Ben Brooks helped Allport’s in-form side set up a preliminary final date with Wollongong Olympic next week.
“Confidence is building,” Allport said.
“Combinations are building again. The amount of changes that we had to make during the year, it was sort of stop start.
“I think there is a bit of consistency now and a bit of confidence comes with it.”
United were in control from the outset and got an early reward when Brooks pounced on a loose ball to fire home.
Park’s best spell of the match came midway through the first half, with a golden chance falling to Chris Gomez to equalise.
However, the White Eagles attacker pulled his effort wide of the mark.
United’s second came eight minutes after half time when Matthew McNab beat Park keeper Chris Fuentes at his second attempt.
The in-form striker finished the game off on the hour mark after he headed the ball over the on-rushing Fuentes into an empty net.
“I felt we dominated the game, particularly early on,” Allport said.
“That allowed us to get into the game and go from there.
“In the back end of the game I was really pleased with how they structured up defensively and kept a clean sheet.
“It was a great performance. We have a few sore and sorry bodies in the sheds but we will manage that during the week.”
Park coach Paul Carter felt the White Eagles were their own worst enemy at times, but expects his troops to learn from the finals experience.
“I would rather talk about the year we have had because no one really expected much of us. With 12 or 13 new players, we only lost two games all year and I think that’s something to celebrate,” he said.
“Obviously you go into any competition to win it, but we have done well our year consistently.
“It is a shame about the semi final series but I think there is something for us to build on.”
Meanwhile, Bulli booked their spot in the grand final with a nervy 3-2 win over Wollongong Olympic.
The League Championship winners led 3-0 after goals from Kenji Takahashi, Ben McDonald and Harry Callahan.
Star striker Yuseke Ueda scored a quick fire double to get his side back in the fight, but Olympic could find the vital third.
In the District League, Warilla Wanderers booked their place in another grand final with a 2-1 win over Coniston while Bellambi beat Helensburgh Thistle 2-1.