Strathdale surged to a clean sweep of the major trophies in a dramatic final round of the Bendigo Amateur Soccer League at the weekend.
The Blues men’s division one and women’s teams clinched memorable titles after fighting back to beat Colts United on Saturday.
Strathdale’s men celebrated wildly at the final whistle after scoring three goals in the final 20 minutes to win 3-2 at Strathfieldsaye.
In an equally tense match, Strathdale’s women wrestled the title from Colts with the last kick of the game.
The Blues were awarded a controversial penalty in injury time and Jasmine Lina wrote herself into club folklore by calmly slotting the title-winning shot.
The Beischer Park-based club has now collected the men’s division one, women’s and youth titles in a stunning season.
“It’s huge; just to win one is hard enough, but to have them all fall for us is great,” men’s division one coach Stuart Gough said.
“The environment you breed within your club breeds success and here we are today as the most successful club in Bendigo for this year. It’s really pleasing.”
Gough’s men’s team led the league for most of the season, but still needed victory in the final round to be assured of the title.
Some observers expected the Blues to capitulate and their hopes of a first league trophy since 2010 looked on shaky ground when Colts went ahead after 54 minutes on Saturday night.
Benjamin Langan punished his former club for wasting its first half dominance when he swivelled 25-yards from goal and drove a thunderbolt into the top corner.
But champion teams find ways to win and few doubted a comeback was on the cards.
It was Strathdale’s star forward Sean Boxshall who finally hit the target, drilling home from close range after 70 minutes.
Boxshall’s 14th goal of the season meant he drew level with team-mate Mitchell Anderson for the league’s Golden Boot award.
The title then seemed bound for Beischer Park after Nicholas Watson poked home and Shaun Allen sidefooted the Blues’ third goal within minutes.
United refused to give in, though, and Keegan Butler coolly slotted a penalty with four minutes to play to put the title back on a knife-edge.
But Strathdale held on until the final whistle, which sparked a mad rush onto the field from the bench and the vocal band of Blues supporters.
“It was just phenomenal,” Gough said. “At half-time it was quite disappointing to know that we were 0-0.
“Then the second half, what transpired, it was like a movie.
“We had to believe in the boys that we had. We knew that we could turn it around.”
Strathdale’s win ended Eaglehawk’s hopes of a third-straight league title, although the Hawks beat Epsom 4-0 on Sunday.
Golden City relegated Swan Hill to the wooden spoon after trouncing the visitors 5-0 at Shadforth Park, and Spring Gully United kept hold of third spot following Colts’ loss.
Meanwhile, Colts’ hearts were broken as Strathdale’s women scored twice in the final six minutes to lift the trophy with a 2-1 win.
Colts had not lost a game all season and only needed to draw to win the title.
United had the champagne on ice when Louise McColl scored with 10 minutes to play.
But the game, which went goalless for 80 minutes, was then turned on its ear.
Golden Boot winner Jacinta Dikkenberg volleyed home from a corner with six minutes to go before Lina nailed her shot at glory from the penalty spot.
“It was unbelievable,” Strathdale coach Chris Eaton said.
“I have to give it to Colts, they were formidable opposition and their defence was fantastic.
“But for our girls to comeback, especially with the time left... they went for it and they did it – they were brilliant.”
Colts team manager Sarah Berry said United’s players were understandably devastated.
“It felt horrible to lose that way. It was a phenomenal (season), we’re just focusing on the Knockout Cup now,” Berry said.
In other results, Spring Gully finished on a high after a 4-1 win over Castlemaine, Epsom beat Eaglehawk 5-4 and Golden City buried Swan Hill 3-0.