Singleton Strikers defeat Kahibah to book grand final qualifier against New Lambton

MATCH WINNER: Singleton Strikers' Jake Barner scored the first and only goal in a dramatic final against Kahibah on Saturday.
MATCH WINNER: Singleton Strikers' Jake Barner scored the first and only goal in a dramatic final against Kahibah on Saturday.

HOWE Park was buzzing on Saturday afternoon as the pride of Singleton football contested their first top grade semi final since 2004.

On that occasion they were beaten in 'golden goal' extra time, this time the game was just as tight but the second placed Strikers scored the only goal of the game against a Kahibah side who fought to the end.

The win set up a game against minor premiers New Lambton on Sunday at Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility at Speers Point. Kick off will be at 2.30 pm.

The winner of that fixture will go into the grand final, while the loser will play the winner of Kahibah versus Cooks Hill.

The weekend's win was their first in a finals series since 1992 - they went on to claim the premiership that year.

From the outset the Strikers and Kahibah indicated that they were going to be hard to break down with both playing constructive football at a furious pace.

Both defences had plenty to do but pushed back their opponents at each attack to the extent that neither keeper was really troubled.

Each side had periods where they were on top but by the time the half time whistle blew neither had find the back of the net.

The second half continued much as the first had ended. As play went on, Singleton started to look more dominant, with full backs Tristan Muir and Ben Henry pushing forward and Brad Cox at times, moving into a more central mid field position.

At times the Strikers were laying siege to the Kahibah goal but at the other end the visitors had their moments too.

Then on 69 minutes Joel Barner, as lively as ever, managed to slip a ball inside to his brother Jake who, attacking at just the right angle slotted the ball home in front of the Singleton faithful.

The next twenty minutes saw some very nervous Singleton supporters, including members of the 1992 Championship side and the 2004 semi final line-up.

Even coach Brendan Slade admitted it was a stressful final portion of the match.

"I must admit, I was a nervous wreck [watching that]," he said.

"Kahibah is a tough side so I knew it would be close.

"Even though we won plenty of ball we tended to rush our passes, that's something we'll work on at training."

At one end Singleton had chances to add to their lead while the visitors were thwarted by a defence capably marshalled by Jackson Skinner.

Late in the game his central defence partner Marcus Morris was dismissed for a second yellow card. At the other end striker Jack Clare was working as hard as at the kick off while the Nicol brothers ran themselves into the ground.

Possession was the name of the game as the clock wound down, with Slade having told the team at half time that they needed to keep a hold of the ball more.

In the final minutes both Bowen Bagnall and Dylan Bentley took the park. The final whistle brought smiles of both relief and jubilation for the large crowd.

Enjoy the win and then back to work for New Lambton next week was the instruction to the players.

The two entertaining lower grade games resulted in West Wallsend beating Kahibah 3-0 in 18s and New Lambton winning 3-2 over Belswans, after being two goals down, in reserves.

The other first grade game, played at Blacksmiths, was a re-run of last years Grand Final with Cooks Hill reversing the result to the tune of 4-0. They now take on Kahibah this Saturday.

With no finals in community football this year both the over 35s and Women ended their season with wins and a place in the top half of their tables.

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