APOLLO has all but cemented itself in the top four of the Limestone Coast soccer A Grade season, after it claimed a 5-1 victory over Portland at Webb Street on Sunday.
The Round 14 clash was played in average conditions, as weather and the four games already played on the pitch took its toll on the surface.
However, despite a somewhat “scrappy” first half, which saw Apollo lead 1-0 at the break, the hosts lifted their game in the second term to run away with a convincing victory.
Lungani Emmual had a stellar game and banged through four second-half goals in his final game for the club.
The opening goal was a header from Stewart Wallace, with the experienced player continuing to contribute to the team alongside the other senior leaders in the ranks.
Apollo coach Bruno Vadori was thrilled to take the win and with Millicent the club’s last opponent for the minor rounds, the side sits in the box seat to play finals.
Vadori said his team did not play to its full potential in the opening half, but the lift in the second term was exactly what he asked for.
“It was a bit of a scrappy affair in the first half,” he said.
“Obviously the conditions weren’t ideal, it was a bit soggy and muddy after a full day of games.
“We visualised we were going to win it and were probably a little bit too overconfident in the first half.
“They did play well in the first half, just not to their full potential.
“But they come out in the second half and it was just like chalk and cheese.
“They made Portland work very hard for it.”
Vadori said although they could have probably banged through a couple more, he was pleased with the performance from his team, especially since eight of the 14 players on the day were Under 17’s.
“The Under 17’s this season really have been the backbone of the seniors, not just in the A Grade, but the B Grade too,” he said.
“They have played fantastically and we had six starting Under 17’s on Sunday and we had two more sitting on the bench who came on.”
Of these juniors, Adam Walker was a standout once again, as he held his own in the backline off the back of a solid performance against Gambier Centrals’ Lewis March last round.
“Adam Walker would probably have to be one of the most underrated Under 17’s going around,” Vadori said.
“The defence line probably doesn’t get as much talk up as what they really should in all clubs.
“The young fella on the weekend just stepped up again and played a cracker of a game.
“Most of the young ones all played very well.”
Vadori also mentioned Cameron Wallace, as he put in another good effort in what has been a consistent year for the defender.
Tom Inglis and Stewart Wallace were also worthy of mention, while Vadori said for Emmual “it was one of the best games I have seen him play this season”.
However, it was bitter-sweet for the fast-running forward, as he will not play in finals due to returning overseas.
“He’s moving back overseas again, he’s been over here for a few years,” Vadori said.
Vadori said he will be missed at the club, as he is a “really good, honest bloke” both on and off the field.
“It is a real shame to see him go, he really enjoyed his time at the club,” Vadori said.
“To finish off his last game, we made him captain for the day and he banged four in – and it was four goals which were all spectacular.”
In terms of looking forward, Vadori said he is stoked to be in the top four, as it has not been an easy season for the club.
“We had a few results not our way in the last few weeks, so it is good to be back in the winner’s circle again,” he said.
“Some people wouldn’t be happy sitting in fourth, but I’m pretty happy we are in the top four.
“That was one of the goals set out at the start of the year, obviously with a new coach like myself and in my first year at senior level at a new club with a lot of new guys in the squad.”
In other games on the weekend, Naracoorte hosted Centrals for its 50th anniversary, which saw the home team don its traditional 1960’s green playing tops.
With a reunion Saturday evening, overcast weather with some slight rain greeted players in the first half of the A Grade clash.
Naracoorte worked hard to pressure Centrals at every opportunity, even with five players having played in the previous reserves match.
Centrals’ striker Calen Sheedy was first to break the defence as he tapped in his first of three goals for the day.
A free kick eight minutes later saw Sheedy find the back of the net again.
With a 2-0 lead at half time, the second term saw Centrals with the majority of play, as it banged through eight more goals to Naracoorte’s one, which was kicked by James Zahau.
Coach Nathan Fleetwood led the way once again for Centrals, with five second-half goals, while Cameron Saint also hit the board with two.
At Casadio Park, International claimed a 14-0 win over Millicent.
The team welcomed back Gareth Vonduve to the head role, after time off due to health concerns and the black and blue did not disappoint their coach.
Matt Bueti led the way with a six-goal haul, while Dan Bronca bagged four, Christian Cella scored three and Josh Grubb found the back of the net on one occasion.
This week will see no games played in Mount Gambier, as Inter travels to Portland, Millicent hosts Apollo and Blue Lake makes the trip to Naracoorte for the final minor round of the season.