SUSSEX Inlet have stormed into the top four with a crushing 3-1 win over Shoalhaven Heads at Thompson Street Sporting Complex on Saturday.
Both teams were desperate for a win to keep their finals chances alive but two red cards to Heads saw them struggle to keep on even terms.
The win has Sussex sitting in fourth on equal points with Bomaderry and Culburra.
With them facing a bye next week, they will pick up the points they need to give them a finals spot.
“We were pretty happy with it all. We are the second team guaranteed a semi-finals spot so now we just have to wait and see how the other teams go to determine our position,” Sussex Inlet coach Neil Wiggins said.
It was a windy day in Sussex, with the locals better equipped to deal with the difficult conditions that pushed the play to one side of the field.
Both teams came out firing in the first half with the ball see-sawing between halves.
Towards the end of the half Sussex looked to be gaining more control.
The turning point of the game came in the 30th minute when Heads goalkeeper David Crapp was awarded a red card for interfering with an attacking player.
Carl Lang stepped on to the field to replace him and Rohan Daley was awarded a free kick, which was just too good for Lang and took the score to 1-nil.
Ten minutes later Sussex was awarded a free kick just in Sussex’s half.
The powerful kick from Ryan Wiggins hit Lang, who fumbled the ball.
Brandon Perosh was waiting just near Lang, and with a direct hit, made no mistake in finding the back of the net.
Wade said he didn’t have much to say to his team at half-time.
“They are very self motivated. They knew they were not going to lose the game and knew what they needed to do,” he said.
Sussex went into the break with confidence, but Heads were not going to give up without a fight and wanted to leave the field knowing they had given it their all.
Heads found their fighting spirit in the second half and caught the home side off-guard in the first five minutes.
Heads broke quickly, and some early passes and quick movement found Liam Sulley, who took the score to 2-1 after some well placed kick found the back of the net.
Sussex snapped back into action and put plenty of pressure on new stand-in goalkeeper Connor Edenden, who made some fantastic saves.
In the 70th minute, what was ruled as a Heads pass back to goalkeeper Edenden, which he picked up, gave a free kick to Sussex.
Although the kick went high, Heads’ Jack Miller was given a red card for what was deemed to be foul and abusive language.
Sussex took no time in taking advantage of their two player advantage.
Good team build-up work gave Robbie Barrett the ball, who took it down the right hand side of the field to beat Edenden and seal the 3-1 win.
Tim Dixon and Ryan Malley were the best for Sussex, whereas the whole Heads outfit went the extra mile.
“We were still trying to push, but down to nine players, it was very very difficult,” Shoalhaven Heads coach and player Brad Page admitted.
Page said he was disappointed in the two red card decisions and did not believe either penalties deserved a send off in what was their most critical game of the season.
“To be honest, the ref killed the game and killed it for us,”
Page said that to hardly see any red cards all season and then to have two in one game was questionable.
But he credited his team for putting in their best.
“Our efforts were generally pretty good so I can’t single out any in particular players,” he said.
The loss knocked Heads back into eighth place with no chance of making the finals.
They will play St Georges Basin at Vic Zealand Oval for the final round of the regular season.