Gosford completed the club’s first undefeated season with a tense 2-1 win over Norths in the Hunter Coast Premier League Hockey grand final on Sunday.
The Magpies led 2-0 at half-time and looked to be cruising to their second title in three years before Norths mounted a late comeback, piling pressure on the minor premiers and winning a series of penalty corners.
Connor Eyers pulled a goal back with a shot on the turn with 90 seconds to go before the Blues won a penalty corner on the buzzer. Australian junior representative Rory Walker had his shot deflected over the bar and Gosford regained the title they lost to Norths last year.
“It was a good win. We tussled it out there at the end. That second half was something special,” Gosford captain Liam Alexander said.
“They had the ball and they just kept going at us and going at us, and we just managed to keep them out. The last two minutes was frantic.”
Norths had won seven of the previous 10 grand finals, but Gosford were clear favourites after winning 17 and drawing one of their games in the regular season.
The Magpies scored twice in the last five minutes of the first half. Rhiley Carr arrowed a short corner inside the left post then Brett Giffin doubled the lead on the buzzer when he deflected in a cross from Lloyd Radcliff.
They had chances to put the game out of Norths’ reach in the second half, but goalkeeper Shaun O’Brien made two stunning saves.
The Blues steadily took hold of the game, controlling possession and forcing Gosford keeper Nick Holman, a NSW squad member, into a series of good saves.
“He’s missed most of the season through an injury, and fortunately for them he came right at the right time of the year. He was outstanding,” Norths captain Theo Gruschka said.
“It was a disappointing end to the game, but I was really proud of the boys, particularly in the last 35 minutes. I thought we had the batter of that second half. It was 1-0 in the second half, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough.”
Gruschka praised his goalkeeper and a trio of young stars for helping the Blues make a game of it late on.
“Rory was great, Ky Willott was great. Olly Flack up the back was really good, and I think our players’ player was definitely Shaun O’Brien. He made some amazing saves in that second half.
“A couple more games of experience in big games like this will certainly put us in the right stead for next year.”