HISTORY was made at Bishop Road on Sunday, when International Soccer Club’s A Grade side suffered its first defeat since the 2016 Limestone Coast soccer season.
The blow was dealt by Gambier Centrals in the senior qualifying final, with the Lions roar loud in the opening term to secure a 2-0 buffer by half time.
The final result saw Inter pull one back, but a deficit of 2-1 remained at the final whistle and Centrals secured itself a grand final berth.
Inter will now make the trip to Naracoorte this weekend to fight for the second place in the decider against Blue Lake, who claimed a 1-0 victory over Apollo in the elimination final.
Some lingering injuries saw the black and blue short staffed on Sunday, with youngster Connor Prior starting with the intentions to play a full game for the first time in seniors.
Centrals come out of the blocks hard and had plenty of scoring opportunities and by half time both Centrals coach Nathan Fleetwood and Calen Sheedy had found their mark and converted onto the scoreboard.
Fleetwood was pleased with the first-half effort, but said there were opportunities to put the game away early.
“I think the first half we could have been home and dry, we had plenty of chances,” he said.
“I was guilty of missing a few.
“But we dug deep in the second half, we knew they were going to come.
“I think we showed we were a strong unit on Sunday.”
A hard-hitting speech from Inter coach Gareth Vonduve spurred some fight in the squad during the break.
However, Inter was still far from its best and was somewhat frantic in its ball movement as it tried desperately to get back in the game.
There were several chances to convert, with a number of runs into goal from the likes of Matt Bueti and Ricky McRobert.
But these were to no avail, until young gun Sar Hay Moo finally put one through late in the game.
Intensity levels went through the roof from that point, with Inter trying hard to score the equaliser.
Centrals had other ideas and had its fair share of shots on goal, with two early attempts in the second term from captain Cameron Saint and Fleetwood almost putting the game away.
In the end, injuries to Prior and Skayper Johnson left Inter in a position unheard of, it was running out of depth.
Centrals was not without its own injuries, with both Luke Pitson and Sheedy sidelined in the first half, but the home team held firm and claimed the victory.
Fleetwood said the team was “ecstatic” to take the win and secure a place in the grand final, but he knows the job is far from done.
He gave credit to his team’s effort on the day and the way it stuck to the game plan.
“We played to the plan we had been working on during the week and it worked,” he said.
“We had lots of chances, we could have been three or four up at half time easily.
“I guess the first half was about those chances, we maybe needed to take a few more to make us safe.
“But we were happy with the two and in the second half we held out.”
Fleetwood said there were highlights all over the ground, but Henry Shoemark was probably the standout on the day.
“We had players in all positions (who stood out),” he said.
“Craig Wright down the back was superb and I think Henry Shoemark was one of our best players, he certainly held to his role really well.
“And then Lewis March, he is a constant menace.”
Youngster Jasper Whitehead was also in fine form at right-back and he has gone from strength to strength in his new role.
“He was never really a right-back and was an attacking player,” Fleetwood said.
“He has certainly gelled well into the role and is growing by the week.”
For Inter, Prior was named as best-on-ground for the side and played his part well, while McRobert was a big presence on the ground.
His voice was vital for keeping the team in check and helping to drive down the field.
Inter will now look to improve on this performance going into the weekend, where it will face a do or die clash against Blue Lake.
Centrals has a week off to recover before the grand final, which Fleetwood expects to be a tough match, regardless of the result of this week’s preliminary.
“It is a grand final, it doesn’t matter who you play it is going to be tough,” he said.
“Inter have been the strongest team for the year so I think they will come back strong.
“But we will see, finals are always close.”