Last chance for Dragons to make final

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The Douglas Dragons will have a second chance to make it to the grand final after going down to the Bulls in the first final. Image: Katy Olsen.
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The Dragons will face Marlin Coast Rangers in a knock out semi-final at the Port Douglas sporting complex this Friday at 7.30pm. And a win will see them into the Grand final and redemption for the 2-1 loss to Mareeba Bulls last Friday night.

The match against the Bulls was a qualifying final, with the winner going directly to the Grand final in two weeks; the loser having to face the winner of 3rd v 4th next week.

These two sides met last week in the last game of the regular season. It was a nail biting 3-3 draw, the Bulls playing with 10 men for most of the game and the result confirming Dragons as minor premieres.

The Dragons kicked straight into gear, knowing the Bulls well they immediately started to push down the flanks and get in behind the defence; Adriano Gualtieri putting over several dangerous crosses one of which was met by Jamie Quinn in front of goal, but his glancing header going across the goal and wide.

Midway through the first half the Bulls keeper failed to clear the ball properly, it was collected by Xavi Aranda inside the Bulls box, but his left shot just wide of the far post. Soon after Gualtieri was free on the edge of the box, his left foot drive just grazing the crossbar. The Dragons were looking strong and dominating the game, Billy Pycroft again pulling the strings in midfield, and the Bulls were offering little in attack.

The dominance by the Dragons wasn't registering on the scoresheet, which left them vulnerable to the opposition, a problem that has plagued them all year.

In the 40th minute a rare push from the Bulls, a cross was put over which went through several players then a slip by a Douglas defender left a Bulls striker unmarked in front of goal and his first time shot buried into the net. At half time and Bulls were 1-0 ahead.

The second half was much more evenly contested, the Bulls tightening their defence and coming forward with more pace, the Dragons still having most of the ball and territory but finding it difficult to get within range of the goal.

Dragons defender's Adam Howell, Chris Allan Baker and Max Taylor were playing well and snuffing out the Bulls attacks keeping the Dragons within reach; all they needed was to find the back of the net.

In the 65th minute Dan Ferrero (who had made another huge effort flying up from Brisbane to play for a second time!) took the free kick just inside his half, he kicked it long and high towards the Mareeba goal, the keeper misjudged the flight of the ball and it bounced over his head and Ferrero had scored from 60 yards to lock up the score 1-1. The Dragons had finally broken.

There was a buzz around the ground, the Dragons and supporters had renewed confidence, and could they continue with this and finish off the Bulls.

But the buzz was short lived. Typically of the Bulls bounced back immediately, and started pushing forward in numbers and putting long balls into the box. In the 75th minute a free kick was awarded to the Bulls about 30 yards out. It was driven low towards goal into a bunch of players, the Bulls reacted first and got in front of the Dragons defenders, with the striker deflecting the ball in from close range. Dragons were behind again 2-1 with 15 minutes to play.

The Dragons were desperate to get back into the game and attacked relentlessly. But they were panicking which did not help them. Free kicks and corners were going astray, passes not finding their mark, and the Bulls stacked their defence and shut the Dragons out.



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