MINOR premiers Camden Haven Redbacks were unable to duplicate their major semi-final form going down 1-3 to defending premiers Port Panthers in the reserve grade grand final of the Oxley/Manning premier soccer league on Saturday.
Played at Harry Elliott Oval Tuncurry, Panthers started aggressively with the advantage of a strong breeze at their backs.
They took the lead after 10 minutes when their striker capitalised on a fumbled ball from Redbacks keeper Thomas Steitz to put them one up.
The Redbacks bounced back and with their midfield winning a fair share of possession started making their own inroads into Panthers territory.
15 minutes into the game Patrick Roberts was released wide on the left and he played a suberb ball through to striker Al Williams who had the presence to lob the ball over the advancing Panthers keeper Shane Martin to lock up the score 1-1.
The wind was proving hard to deal with and Panthers used it to advantage. One attack down the left wing looked dangerous but keeper Steitz reacted well with his feet, making a fine one-on-one save.
The play was swinging from one end of the field to the other and with ten minutes left in the half, Col Harris, playing in the Havens midfield was unlucky not to get a head to a fine free kick from Nathan Attard,
Almost immediately though a free kick in the middle of the park saw Panthers edge ahead when a long ball from half way was flicked on by their midfielder Fitzpatrick who rose high to get a head on the ball past keeper Steitz.
Again the Redbacks rallied and had an excellent chance off an Attard corner which was cleared off the line by the Panthers defence. 2-1 against the wind would have been a satisfactory result for the Havens at half-time however this changed with just a minute to go when another free kick was awarded to Panthers just outside the box.
The shot found its way through the wall into the far left corner of the net giving the keeper no chance.
Try as they may the Redbacks couldn't mount enough pressure in the second half, with the Panthers defence equal to anything they could throw at them.
Panthers protected their 3-1 lead with no further change to the scoreline after half time.
Best on the day for the Redbacks were Lee Hartshorne, Patrick Roberts, and Nathan Attard.
Although disappointed the Redbacks have enjoyed a good season, taking out the minor premiership and proving as good as any team in the competition on their day.
Captain Matt Aldridge deserves special mention for his inspirational form as captain throughout the season with his players all contributing to an entertaining year for supporters who were again out in force at Tuncurry.
The club and players appreciate the support shown by the Redbacks faithful both home and away in 2005.
Coaches Steve Slade and Col Harris along with manager Nev Raccani deserve congratulations on a job well done in 2005.
Presentation night is this Saturday.