Daylesford and Hepburn United Soccer Club faced a massive challenge against Ballarat Red, who have managed to better the Saints at both their meetings this season, during their game on Saturday.
The first half of the game was played at a frantic open pace, with both sides failing to capitalise on great scoring opportunities.
Hiroshi Matsuda was seemingly everywhere, helping to fill the massive breach left by the absent Dragi Koleski.
Jack Nulty and Aidan Mayger opened big holes in Ballarat’s defence, but failed to capitalise.
With a score of nil all at half time, the stakes were high and the pressure on the ball increased.
This saw Josh Butler and Sean Ludeke play hard both forward and back.
The Saints’ back four of Claude Ayrton, Francis Comber, Ivan Carter and Dylan Nulty were outstanding all day, however the Saints conceded a soft goal at 50 minutes with Comber, Carter and keeper Josh Smith all out of position.
Jack Nulty put pressure on the box resulting in a loose ball, classily finished by Hiroshi Matsuda from 18 yards.
And from there things got tense and scrappy, with both teams seeing few opportunities.
The game went to extra time locked at 1 – 1 but as both teams refused to concede, and as a result of tireless running from Sean Ludeke and Jack Nulty, as well as some six yard box heroics by Dylan Nulty, the game went to a penalty shootout.
Ballarat kicked first in what turned out to be an incredible penalty shootout.
Kick one, Ballarat Score, sending Smith the wrong way. Kick two, a perfect penalty by Aidan Mayger. Kick three saw mind games encourage a miss from Ballarat, rattling the woodwork.
Kick four was cool as a Ballarat breeze thanks to Jack Nulty. Kick five, Ballarat scored again after Smith made the wrong decision. And kick six, Dylan Nulty missed high and right, locking the game at 2–2.
And with kick seven, Smith made the save of his career, giving the Saints the advantage. Kick eight and Sean Ludeke, usually faultless, missed high and right. Kick nine, Ballarat sent it wide after sending Smith the other way.
Kick 10, Hiroshi Matsuda, a Saints legend, who never misses, missed the goal. It was a good save by Ballarat keeper.
With kick number 11, Smith went big, Ballarat hit the bar and the Saints were again at an advantage.
So with kick 12, Josh Butler, dreaming of Aloisi, slotted the one Daylesford needed to win the game.
So the saints won the game 3 (6) – 2 (6) and dedicated the win to the absent, but hugely present Dragi Koleski.