Mission accomplished! Croydon Kings snagged their 5th top flight championship in their history after a drama filled Grand Final on Saturday night at Coopers Stadium.
Croydon yet again defied all odds in an end-to-end game which had a bit of everything, and for the third time this season beating minor premier Adelaide City in the process.
City started the game on the front foot and tried to stamp their authority on the game and forced a few corners early on, however the Kings defence and goalkeeper Nick Munro had all the answers and City became frustrated. In an entertaining first half, there were no goals, however plenty of good football from both sides kept the good crowd guessing to what was in store in the second half.
City began to press harder in search of the game’s opening goal but the harder they tried, it seemed the better that Croydon came at creating their own via counter attacks. And the game exploded into life when after 70 minutes Paul Radice collected the ball on the half way line and weaved his way in and out of City defenders and struck a cracking thunderbolt from 20 metres that flew in off the underside of the crossbar and the partisan Kings crowd erupted into celebration.
City had little choice to press forward and the Kings were able to match them in all departments until about 10 minutes from time, a through ball that finally cracked the Kings defence ended up in a one-on-one with the keeper and as they tried to walk the ball in, Nick Munro had brought down the player and a penalty was awarded to City with Munro earning a yellow card for the foul.
Then came the drama and controversy which almost flipped the game on its head.
Nick Bucco stepped up to take the spot kick for City but a tremendous save by Munners denied the City equaliser – or so we all thought. To our bewilderment, linesman Eric Ford adjudged Munro had moved off his line prior to the kick being struck and despite waves of protests from Kings players (and supporters), the penalty was to be re-taken. Then suddenly prior to the re-take the referee brandished another yellow card to Munro, meaning a red card and he was sent-off after a supposed “new rule” making such an “offence” a bookable one. Absolutely ridiculous that such a meek offence (if it was even there) was dealt with so harshly in such a big game.
Coach Mark Brazzale was forced to sacrifice a player (Adrian D’Alfonso) to enable Reserve Keeper Costa Zacharopoulos to take the gloves and unfortunately his first touch was to retrieve the ball from the net as Bucco’s second attempt was converted and it was 1-1 and Kings down to ten men with extra time looming. Bucco’s goal celebration right in front of the big Croydon crowd wound us up, but little did we know how the well players would respond.
And then came a moment that will live in the memories of the Croydon faithful for a long, long time. The fighting spirit of Croydon showed when a floated ball found Michael Doyle who came on as another sub up front to create his usual havoc in the hope of pinching a goal. He shielded the ball in the penalty area and before you knew it, “Mr September” Shaun McGreevy was on hand to collect the crumbs and side footed an angled shot which found the net with thunderous applause from the Croydon gallery with only a few minutes left. The Kings regrouped knowing they just had to hang on the final moments and whilst City sent a scare in the camp with what they thought was a dramatic equaliser only for it to be ruled out for a clear offside.
Moments later, the final whistle blew and there were jubilant scenes and Kings supporters spilled out on to the ground to wild celebrations knowing they just achieved the near impossible with a 2-1 win and claimed the 2017 NPL championship.
16 year old Kings sensation Hosine Bility was a worthy player of the match and could well be in line for more accolades when the FFSA awards night come around – we shall see!
This will no doubt go into the history books as one of the sweetest, if not THE most sweetest of all of Croydon Kings/Polonia Adelaide’s big accomplishments.
The clubrooms were packed after the game and the team and support staff walked in as one to congratulations aplenty which kicked on into the wee hours of the next morning.
This was karma at its best. And whilst purists may deem that Adelaide City as minor premiers should get more credit, we must remember that Croydon beat them 3 times this season, and had to make it into the Grand Final the hard way.
So the new golden era in the club’s history is confirmed – and in future names such as McGreevy, Klimek, Munro, Farrell, Visconte, Doyle, Brazzale and more will be used just as names like Kosmina, Kolecki, Romanowicz, Zdebel, Cichinski & Nowak have been used in the past when talking about Polonia legends.
Thanks to all at the club from the board, and especially the club volunteers, sponsors, coaches, juniors, new women’s teams, amateurs, and of course senior players and loyal supporters who together make this club who we are and what makes us tick in our support of each other.
In closing, I would like to thank everyone for the opportunity for writing match previews and match reports over the past few years on the Croydon website. This will be my last one and what better way to finish than to write up such an historic event.
Look out for a fresh outlook and new articles, descriptions and summaries in season 2018 which will be taken on by staunch Croydon supporter Adrian Zajac. His style and enthusiasm will be worth looking forward to next season and hopefully for many years to come.
Eddie “Bomber” Czerwinski
Pic – thanks to Adam Butler