Thistles too sharp for Pottsville

THISTLES defied the odds to keep their Football FNC premier league soccer grand final dream alive with a stunning 5-2 win over Pottsville on the Panthers' home turf in the sudden-death minor semi-final on Saturday.

Pottsville went into the game as favourites and had lost just once at home, but were brought undone by the combination of goalkeeper Nathan Wilson being sent off and a disciplined Blues performance, highlighted by a hat-trick from Brenton Parrish.

A howling wind made conditions difficult, but Thistles had it at their backs in the first half and opened the scoring when young striking duo Parrish and Jake Nind combined, with Nind cutting back an accurate pass for Parrish to head in at the near post.

Soon after, Wilson was involved in a scuffle with Thistles midfielder Daniel Winkler-Maloney, which became the turning point of the game when the big custodian was shown a red card.

Defender Steve Pilcher had to be sacrificed for substitute 'keeper Cody Baker to come on, with his first job being to pick the ball out of the back of his net after Jake Nind converted the ensuing penalty.

The Blues extended their lead to 3-0 by half-time when Jakeb Speers hit a first-time volley from the top of the box in what looked a match-winning margin.

But with the wind behind them for the second half, a 10-man Pottsville came out determined to fight back and did just that, with two goals in 10 minutes from Josh McQueen and Mike Kolovos.

Unfortunately for McQueen, he slammed into the post after heading the goal, breaking his collarbone and dislocating his shoulder.

Soon after, striker Josh Boag also left the field injured and with no subs left, fellow striker Mike Kolovos was left limping around with little effect.

In contrast, Thistles finished strongly with two more goals from Parrish.

The 17-year-old speedster beat several tired defenders for his second before finishing off good lead-up play for the Blues' fifth in one of their best performances for years.

Ironically the door opened for Parrish to come into the side when older brother and Blues top scorer, brother Matt, broke a hand three weeks ago.

“We had to address the discipline issue about a month ago and the guys have responded, so it's great to see them getting the results and it's exciting times for the side and the club now,” Thistles coach Ken MacPherson said.

The Blues will now focus on the preliminary final next Sunday, when they take on local rivals Richmond Rovers.

While Pottsville finished a spectacular season on a low, the side has achieved a new benchmark for the growing club, leaving coach David Lonie with mixed emotions.

“It's disappointing for it all to end that way, but there's no excuses and overall it's been a good season and gives us plenty to build on for next year,” he said.

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