TWO wins and two losses was the score from Warrnambool Rangers’ foray into the Ballarat and District Soccer Association finals.
The Rangers’ senior women and under 15s celebrated victories in their first-up finals at Ballarat’s Morshead Park.
But the senior men and reserves men suffered frustrating defeats which have put them behind the eight-ball in their hunt for championships.
The 15s defied an undermanned list to edge past Ballarat 1-0 in the qualifying final, earning direct qualification into the grand final in a fortnight. Teenager Luke Bennett grabbed the winner three minutes from full-time, latching on to a long ball from goal keeper Tom Pyers.
Coach Phil Burns said his players were gutsy throughout the match on a warm afternoon.
Burns said a combination of illness, cricket commitments and a holiday meant he had just 11 players at his disposal.
“It was a team we normally wouldn’t have. All the fringe players stepped up, he said.
“It was a warm day and we didn’t have any substitutes. We were up against it a lot of the time. We defended well.
“Oscar Bishop and Michael Mullins did a great job at the back and we had players playing out of position as well.
“To get a result out of that was excellent. They thought they would beat us.”
The women survived a last-chance elimination final by beating North United White 5-1. An Isabel Wilkinson hat-trick paved the way for the victory. Shkara Rantall and Nadine Senior also got on the scoresheet.
Coach Jim Gray said he was worried after North pulled a goal back before half-time to make the score 2-1.
But his players found another level after the interval to surge clear and set up a preliminary final against North United Black on Sunday.
“All I was glad about was I didn’t have to give a 3-2-1 for the votes,” he said.
“Everyone played above what I expected them to play.
“After the match the North coach came up to me and said ‘you really took us apart today’.” The senior men suffered an agonising defeat to Ballarat in the qualifying final, which relegated them to a preliminary final against North United on Sunday.
Scores were locked 0-0 after full-time and 1-1 after extra time.
Eli Slater put the Rangers ahead in the first period of extra time but Justin Witcher equalised for the Red Devils.
Ballarat then won the penalty shoot-out 3-2 to book the first grand final berth.
Coach Nick van Rooy said he was “frustrated” with the result.
“We outplayed them all the game. Opportunities went begging, we just couldn’t finish,” he said. “It was our curse. We had several chances, we were just unlucky.”
Van Rooy said the result handed Ballarat an advantage should the sides meet in the grand final.
“It was the first game we’ve drawn all year. It was a huge win for them keeping us scoreless for 90 minutes.”
The reserve men lost 5-1 against Ballarat, conceding three times in the last 10 minutes. Sam Dart was the sole goal scorer.
They will play Forest in the preliminary final on Sunday.