SHOALHAVEN United coach Trevor Skingle said his team finally looks to be heading in the right direction after their 3-1 defeat of Illaroo at Lyrebird Park on Saturday.
Substitute Kris Brant was the hero for the home side, with two goals to help them back after they were trailing 1-nil at half time.
Illaroo opened the scoring in the first half when Aaron Crittenden had a one-on-one shot with Nathan Murphy, which was saved, but rebounded for Evan Leedham to put it in the back of the net.
Despite some good chances, United were unable to get on the score sheet in the first half, but Skingle said he always felt confident they could come back.
“I wasn’t too worried at half time and I just told them to go back out and knock it round, stick at it and be patient,” he said.
It was actually Illaroo who had the first chance in the second half, but another great save from Murphy stopped United from falling behind 2-nil.
Kris Brant made an almost immediate impact after coming on for Billy Wallington, slotting their first goal from 25 metres out after 70 minutes.
They struck again soon after when Dean Atkinson tapped it in from the rebound, after his first shot was well saved by Illaroo keeper Aaron Turner.
United’s third goal came in strange circumstances when a goalkick in the 83rd minute when straight to Kris Brant who chipped it straight over Turner to make it 3-1.
Skingle said he thought they were much better in the second half, but still thought they deserved the result overall.
“I’d say it was definitely our best game of the season up until now,” he said.
“Even in the first half, we weren’t playing badly, but we just needed to be patient.
“If they’d have gone 2-nil up, we probably could’ve kissed it goodbye, but Murph pulled off a magnificent save.
“That was his first game in first grade this year and I think he had a great game.”
Illaroo coach Andrew Timbs thought his side showed significant signs of improvement from their last performance against Culburra, but were still not good enough on the day.
“We’re still a bit behind the eight ball,” Timbs said.
“If we’d have gone 2-nil up, it could’ve been a different story, but a few silly mistakes cost us,” he added.
Timbs said he thinks they still have plenty of work to do, but feels they are not too far away from being back in the winner’s circle.
“I hope it’s not far off, or it could be too late,” he said.
“It’s looking like another close competition and we don’t want to leave it till the last minute like last season.
“I’m not hitting the panic button yet, but I’d say next week is a bit of a must-win, or the top four will start slipping away.”
Both teams are expecting tough games next week, with Illaroo to host Shoalhaven Heads at Sharman Park, while United are up against Bomaderry at Bomaderry Oval.