Bendigo soccer set for exciting finish

BIG TUSSLE: Shepparton South and Eaglehawk will compete in the Bendigo Amateur Soccer League grand final on Sunday. Picture: ADAM BOURKE
BIG TUSSLE: Shepparton South and Eaglehawk will compete in the Bendigo Amateur Soccer League grand final on Sunday. Picture: ADAM BOURKE

Eaglehawk hopes its experience in big finals will carry it to victory over a talented Shepparton South side in the Bendigo Amateur Soccer League grand final on Sunday. 

In what could be his last game in the BASL, Eaglehawk coach Greg Thomas said his team’s knack of responding under pressure will be an important factor in the match.

“It has been one of the things – we just know how to win when we need to,” Thomas said.

The Borough won BASL’s 2016 championship and added the league title to its trophy list in 2017, finishing two points ahead of its grand final opponents. 

Eaglehawk will again be without influential midfielder Nathan Hamblin, who has struggled to overcome a knee injury. 

And while Thomas said it was a blow for the side, the fact his players had progressed to the grand final in his absence was a good sign.

“We've had a couple of good results without him. We're hoping guys can step up with his loss,” he said.

The 2017 finals series had been especially difficult given the extended season due to the introduction of four new Shepparton-based sides, Thomas said.

Shepparton South co-coach Nathan Radevski said his side will use a penalty shootout loss against Shepparton United in the now-defunct Goulburn North East Football Association 2016 grand final as motivation. 

“We’re a lot more prepared this time around – I’ve told the boys to just go out and enjoy it,” he said.

The evenly-matched sides have one win each and and draw in the three previous encounters this season – the most recent of which was a 3-1 Shepparton South victory in a semi-final last month.

Unlike Eaglehawk, Shepparton South will have a full, healthy squad for Sunday’s decider, with Radevski hoping star import Sean Grant will continue his goal-scoring form.

“We know that it’s going to be a physical game but as long as we play the way we want to play there's no reason why we can't easily win the game,” Radevski said.

Meanwhile, Epsom face Shepparton United in the women’s grand final.

Epsom coach Brenton Ellis was complimentary of his side’s opponents, who beat the Scorpions twice during the season.

However, Epsom prevailed 2-1 in an absorbing semi-final last month.

“They (Shepparton United) are a very good side – completely different to any other Bendigo-based side, more technically skilled and physical,” he said.

Despite this, Ellis had “every faith in his girls”.

“Our squad is very deep. I’m very lucky that I have a lot of versatile players that can play different positions,” he said.

In other games, Shepparton United face reserves championship winners Strathdale, who won the recent semi-final between the sides.

Strathdale’s youth side will play in-form Epsom in the grand final.

All games will be played at the Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve.