Dragons hold on to snatch Minor Premiers

SOCCER

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The Dragons have ended the regular season as Minor Premiers and will now begin their finals campaign. Image: Katy Olsen.
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After a nail-biting finish and with time running out, the Douglas United Dragons soccer team managed to salvage a 3-3 draw against the Mareeba Bulls which was enough to secure them the Minor Premiers.

In this tightly-contested affair, the Dragons dominated the middle, but some poor finishing and defensive errors made it a closer game and they will need to improve as the finals begin immediately.

First versus second will see a repeat of Friday’s game. Dragons will take on the Bulls at the Port Douglas sporting complex at 6.30pm this Friday; the winner advancing directly into the Grand Final, the loser playing the winner of third versus fourth.

This was the last game of the regular season and a showdown between top of the table Dragons and second placed Bulls. This season has been the toughest and the most competitive 2nd Division season to date.

The Bulls were trailing the Dragons by 2 points and this would decide the Minor Premiership and the team to play Townsville in the Crad Evans Trophy; a win or draw by the Dragons would see them champions for a third consecutive year. And they achieved it in front of huge support from the large crowd at the sporting complex.

The Dragons fielded a near full strength side, Captain Ben Syrett recovering just in time and able to replace the suspended Chris Allan Baker in defence and a big effort from Dan Ferrero, flying up from Brisbane an hour before kick-off, to take the field.

The Dragons started well with Billy Pycroft taking charge of the midfield, as both teams played timidly for the first 15 minutes testing the water and not wanting to take too many risks.

At the 20-minute mark the Dragons were handed a gift from the referee; a Bulls player who had previously been warned about his foul language persisted and was given a red card and the Bulls were down to 10 players.

With the Dragons gaining in confidence, they pushed harder and pressured the Bulls goal. With Navarro on the left, he cut back and put in a far post cross. Manu Dominguez made the perfect run and headed the ball into the top corner giving the Dragons a 1-0 lead mid-way through the first half.

In the 42nd minute and against the run of play, the Bulls pushed into the Dragons goal box. A Bulls striker got to the by-line and pulled the ball back in front of the Dragons goal. With confusion among the Dragons defence, a Bulls player pounced in and tapped it in. The teams were locked on 1-1 at half time.  

The second half started poorly for the Dragons. A long throw-in to the Bulls went over the Dragons defenders, and with a Bulls striker running onto it, he slid it passed the advancing Dragons keeper putting the Bulls 2-1 ahead. This did not deter the Dragons who lifted their game, who were also mindful of not having lost at home for two years.

Finally, in the 75th minute the tidal wave of black and white broke through, a far post cross from the left found Manu Dominguez unmarked, he brought it down and neatly slotted the ball down low past the Bulls keeper to level the scores 2-2.

The Dragons knew they had to keep pushing, and after some good work by Adriano Gualtieri down the left, he crossed the ball over and a goal mouth scramble had the ball in the back of the net, an own goal from the Bulls player. Dragons were now 3-2 up with 10 minutes to go.

From a Bulls corner, and with the ball bouncing off the crossbar and in front of the Dragons goal into a dangerous area, players scrambled to get a piece of it.

After a Bulls player headed toward the goal, Dragons keeper Heath Melton, moving forward to block the shot, and with his arm held he was pulled back. In the melee, the referee’s vision was obscured and he was unable to see the infringement. The game was again level on 3-3.

There were a few nervous minutes remaining, but the Bulls threw everything at the Dragons, including their goalkeeper pushing forward. But the Dragons held on and the draw was enough to secure the minor premiership.



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