Forrestfield United back in the Premier League

Forrestfield United will be playing PS4 NPLWA football next season after overcoming Mandurah City 6-3 on aggregate to seal a spot in the top flight of WA football next season.

Forrestfield led 3-0 from the first leg, but in a classic second leg at the Securitas Protect Stadium, Mandurah were back in the tie early with skipper Andy Brown heading home, but Sani Sinclair leveled on the day with a crucial away goal. But Mandurah added two more before half time, with Jeff Bright converting from the penalty spot, before Ryan Francis made it 4-3 on aggregate, and it was game on. But after half time Forrestfield settled, and Sinclair made it 3-2 from the penalty spot and defender Joe O’Brien was sent off, before Ben Rogers leveled on the day and put the visitors in control, and at the final whistle Coaches, players and supporters celebrated on the pitch, as the Hartfield Park club seal a spot in the top flight of WA football for the first time since 1986.

An emotional Coach Rod Banjac said it was a great achievement and he said the players had been magnificent all season. “I knew we were going to be up for a challenge today, simply because of our inexperience in big match situations, and knowing Doug and his team would have analyzed everything we do, and credit to them, they came out with all guns firing and scored the early goal,” he said. “That flustered us and after the second and third we were all at sea, so at halftime we settled them down and started focusing on our individual responsibilities and we played the way we are capable off. I’ve got a great squad, the players get on really well and I couldn’t be more proud of them today.”

Banjac said the hard work now begins, as they look make their mark on the NPL. “I’m already preparing for the following season in the NPL, we had great support today and our local MLA and members from the City of Kalamunda we’re also watching, we have a beautiful community behind us, we have a lovely venue, and we are now an NPL club and I’m pinching myself, because that was a dream of ours five years ago and we’ve done a year ahead of plan,” he explained. “I could not be more proud of the region I live in and we are dead set focused on enriching the world of football in this state as we have so much talent and we just need to give these kids guidance and a structure, and I can’t express our happy I am right now.”

Mandurah Coach Doug Hesketh said they started well but the sending off killed them. “The plan was to get at them early and it was a perfect start, but the sending off of young Joe killed us, and it was a bit harsh in my opinion,” he said. “But hey we tried something in the first leg and didn’t work, and although I wasn’t there I was totally involved with how we set up, but good luck to Forrestfield, I’ve got no complaints. Last season we finished second in Division One and today we’ve swapped places with second in Division One. We had a good Night Series in the NPL and we’ve taken some good experience from our time in it. I won’t be here next season, but I’ll be around and hopefully we get things together and get back in the NPL.”

The players celebrated on the pitch and all praised the work done by their coach and mentor Banjac. “I’m really pleased for Rod, and we are indebted to him and his family for where we are heading. The boys have stuck together from the start and we all believed in Rod’s plan from the get go, and it’s paid off and we’re seeing the results now,” Forrestfield defender Scott Barker said.  “I think we had a few early nerves, but we knew if we played our game we can go up against nearly anyone, so to score the third put the game beyond them and we saw it out, a great day for the club.”

Defender Mark Barnett echoed Baker’s thoughts. “It was a massive game for us, and I’m just so proud of the boys, we came here with a plan and didn’t execute it in the first half but we found a spark after half time and went on with it, so happy for Rod, he’s why we all came back to the club, and to win it for him is great,” he said. “I think the sending off and the penalty by Sani opened the game right up and that’s when we started playing our football, like we have all season. It gave us space in the midfield, which we didn’t have in the first half and credit to Mandurah they came out all guns blazing, but really happy today and its NPL next season – bring it on.”

The home side, made a number of changes from the first leg with skipper Brown the big one, while Rhys Loxley passed a late fitness test to take his spot in the lineup for Forrestfield, and Sinclair returned in place of Jordan Hart, who dropped to the bench. It was Mandurah who were out of the blocks early, and they made the perfect start, ahead after only two minutes, Bright’s corner was headed home powerfully by Brown at the back post. It wasn’t the start Forrestfield were looking for, and things got worse three minutes later when Loxley succumb to a groin injury and was replaced by Hart.

But they put that disappointment behind them and two minutes later they leveled. A sweeping move ended with Hart racing down the right and his low cross was turned home by Sinclair, for a vital away goal, much to the delight of the traveling supporters. Mandurah needed quick goals and they made it 2-1 on 19 minutes, Bright was brought down in the box by Matt Harold, and referee Matthew Southern pointed straight to the spot. Bright picked himself up and scored from the resulting penalty.

The home fans were on their feet again five minutes later Francis lost his marker on the edge of the box, his low shot was pushed onto the post by Luke Martino, but Francis was quickest to react to fire home the rebound. Forrestfield were hanging on as Mandurah went in for the kill, but the young heads stood firm and they went close themselves late. First skipper Liam Merigan played in Hart, but his shot was well saved by Kieran Shail, and in stoppage time Merigan’s shot on the run was saved by Shail, but at half time it was still game on.

Whatever Coach Banjac said at half time worked, as Forrestfield looked lively and Sinclair’s low cross was fired inches wide by Hart early, before Sinclair’s header drifted inches wide of the target. Mandurah were struggling to get a foot hold, and it wasn’t a surprise when Forrestfield scored on the hour. Hart raced into the area and fell under the challenge of Joe O’Brien, and the referee pointed to the spot and sent the young defender off. Sinclair kept his nerves and fired home to put the game out of reach of Mandurah.

Forrestfield levelled on the day four minutes later, Rogers wasn’t closed down and his long-range shot flew into the corner of the net giving Shail no chance. The Forrestfield traveling supporters were in party mood, with the game sewn up, but Mandurah went close to a fourth on the day on 80 minutes, but Martino produced a great save to deny Francis. At the final whistle it was Forrestfield celebrating and they were presented with the play-off trophy and I’m sure celebrations would go long into the night.

Match Details

Mandurah City 3 (Brown 2’, Bright 19’ pen, Francis 24’) v Forrestfield United 3 (Sinclair 7’, 60’ pen, Rogers 64’) – Forrestfield win 6-3 on aggregate

Venue: Securitas Protect Stadium

Referee: Matthew Southern – Assistants: Josh Mannella, Tom Dowle – Fourth Official: Nico Hoyle

Mandurah City: GK Kieran SHAIL, 2 Oliver MCGEE, 3 Jeff BRIGHT, 4 Matt STARES, 5 Aiden GLARK, 6 Lance LOUVIE, 7 Joshua WARREN (12 Joe O’BRIEN 46’), 8 Andy BROWN (13 Slade RULE 75’), 9 Sean TROUP, 10 Daniel DAVIES (16 Kevin CASTLE 75’), 11 Ryan FRANCIS – Subs not used: 14 Mark MCLAUGHLIN – Yellow Cards: Louvie 48’, O’Brien 56’, 59 – Red Cards: O’Brien 59’

Forrestfield United: GK Luke MARTINO, 4 Mark BARNETT, 5 Jamie DUNCAN, 6 Matt HAROLD, 8 Mitch CROCKER (3 Joshua KOTIO 83’), 11 Liam MERIGAN (C), 12 Sani SINCLAIR, 13 Scott BARKER, 14 Ben ROGERS (7 Trevor LAURE 77’), 15 Trent BLEWETT, 23 Rhys LOXLEY (10 Jordan HART 5’) – Subs not used: RGK Ben PARRY, 12 Leslie MARI – Yellow Cards: Nil – Red Cards: Nil