By Liam Emerton
On Saturday night, a grand final came down to the most high pressure situation many of our local CQ Premier League players will ever face.
A penalty shootout was necessary after the Frenchville Roos and Clinton FC local soccer squads battled for 120 minutes at Ryan Park.
It looked unlikely that the match was going to go that far with Clinton masterminding a snatch-and-grab game plan which saw Liam Stephen knock in a brace, scoring once in the sixth minute and then grabbing the other in the 59th.
Clinton produced a solemn display of defence up until the 78th minute but the cracks started to form when a Tim Zimitat strike squeezed its way into the back of the net.
That goal, and a second yellow card offence handed to Clinton captain Liam Jones directly afterwards, spurred the Roos on.
The pressure of Frenchville’s continuous attack grew too much for Clinton’s now 10-men defence and after a delightful corner, Cooper Lems headed home the equaliser with just minutes remaining.
That forced the match into thirty minutes of extra time and when the scores remained locked it was down to the cruelest way to separate two sides, a penalty shootout.
The shootout was high-quality too with the first six penalty takers of each team keeping calm under pressure and slotting their shots home.
But eventually one team had to miss and that team was the Gladstone-based Clinton.
That miss saw the whole Frenchville team come in to celebrate with their keeper Robbie Day, who had actually scored a penalty in the shootout and came close to saving a couple of Clinton’s shots.
The young Clinton side should keep their head high having made the grand final after winning back-to-back elimination finals and keeping Frenchville scoreless for half an hour despite being down a man.
It was also Clinton’s first taste back in the CQPL for a year after missing out on the 2020 season.
Understandably disappointed with the heart-breaking loss, Clinton captain Liam Jones talked about what the grand final meant for the future of the club.
“To come this far is a massive effort for us,” he said.
“The boys should all be incredibly proud of themselves. They dug really deep towards the back end of the season and we found some form.
“It’s a very tough way to lose it but it is what it is.
“It’s a very young team for us, it’s a bit of a transition period.
“We will lose a few of us older boys next year and it will only be better for the young players to step up and gain from this experience.”
The win was Frenchville’s third-straight Wesley Hall Cup and Frenchville captain Jordan Miller’s fifth in his career.
After the jubilation had worn off a little, Miller spoke about how pleasing that grand final win was.
“They definitely made us work. To be two-nil behind, to come back and go to extra time is a pretty big effort,” said Miller.
“And then going to penalties is anybody’s game then so a massive game.
“I was pretty nervous standing on the sideline watching that.
“Both sides hit some quality penalties, hitting the side netting is pretty hard to save.
“I feel sorry for the poor lad who did miss but hopefully he can bounce back.”
Picking his best on the park from his side, Miller couldn’t go past one of his partners in the midfield.
“From our team I think Tim Zimitat was unreal,” he said.
“He scored the first goal to get us back into the game.
“What he offers is not just that, he has tenacity all game. I’d love to see how many kilometres he racked up.”
In the reserve grade grand final the Nerimbera Magpies held on to win the final 3-2 after a late resurgence saw Central score two quick-fire goals.
Patrick Gomes scored a double in that match to help the Magpies secure the reserve grade trophy.