Olympic fight back to reach NPL grand final

Olympic fight back to reach NPL grand final Scenes from the NPL semi-final between Lambton Jaffas and Hamilton Olympic on Sunday. Olympic players celebrate their equaliser with their fans. Picture: Peter Stoop
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Scenes from the NPL semi-final between Lambton Jaffas and Hamilton Olympic on Sunday. Picture: Peter Stoop

Scenes from the NPL semi-final between Lambton Jaffas and Hamilton Olympic on Sunday. Picture: Peter Stoop

Scenes from the NPL semi-final between Lambton Jaffas and Hamilton Olympic on Sunday. Picture: Peter Stoop

Scenes from the NPL semi-final between Lambton Jaffas and Hamilton Olympic on Sunday. Picture: Peter Stoop

Scenes from the NPL semi-final between Lambton Jaffas and Hamilton Olympic on Sunday. Picture: Peter Stoop

Scenes from the NPL semi-final between Lambton Jaffas and Hamilton Olympic on Sunday. Picture: Peter Stoop

Scenes from the NPL semi-final between Lambton Jaffas and Hamilton Olympic on Sunday. Picture: Peter Stoop

Scenes from the NPL semi-final between Lambton Jaffas and Hamilton Olympic on Sunday. Picture: Peter Stoop

Scenes from the NPL semi-final between Lambton Jaffas and Hamilton Olympic on Sunday. Jaffas Luke Remmington scores a goal and celebrates with a backflip. Picture: Peter Stoop

Scenes from the NPL semi-final between Lambton Jaffas and Hamilton Olympic on Sunday. Jaffas Luke Remmington scores a goal and celebrates with a backflip. Picture: Peter Stoop

Scenes from the NPL semi-final between Lambton Jaffas and Hamilton Olympic on Sunday. Olympic players celebrate their equaliser with their fans. Picture: Peter Stoop

Scenes from the NPL semi-final between Lambton Jaffas and Hamilton Olympic on Sunday. Olympic players celebrate their equaliser with their fans. Picture: Peter Stoop

Scenes from the NPL semi-final between Lambton Jaffas and Hamilton Olympic on Sunday. Olympic players celebrate their win after extra time. Picture: Peter Stoop

Scenes from the NPL semi-final between Lambton Jaffas and Hamilton Olympic on Sunday. Olympic players celebrate their win after extra time. Picture: Peter Stoop

TweetFacebookCOACH Michael Bolch praised the work of his substitutes, one of whom appears set to miss the grand final, after Hamilton drew 2-2 with Lambton Jaffas in an extra-time thriller to go into the Northern NSW National Premier decider.

Hamilton were down 2-0 on Sunday at Edden Oval and 3-2 behind on aggregate before a 77th-minute header from Pat Brown off an Andrew Swan cross brought the two-leg semi-final to 3-3.

The goal took the game into extra-time, and Olympic continued to pile on the pressure in extra-time before Rhys Cooper ran through onto a Kane Goodchild flick-on and buried his one-on-one chance in the 111th minute to give Hamilton the overall win and a date with minor premiers Edgeworth.

Despite the surprise absence of midfield linchpin Jobe Wheelhouse to an ankle injury, the David Tanchevski-coached Jaffas controlled most of the match.

Goals from Luke Remington (45th minute) and Riley McNaughton (55th) put the defending major premiers in the box seat before Olympic brought on Matt Swan and Jason Korotkich for Ben Koina and an ill Simon Mooney in the 59th minute. In the 73rd minute, the Jaffas lost Jamie Byrnes to a calf injury and the tide turned even more.

‘‘We were 2-0 down, but the boys dug deep and kept going and going,’’ Bolch said.

‘‘[Brad Swancott] made a couple of really good saves for them at the end and I’ll agree with Tanch from last week, they were the better side today – for 70 minutes anyway.

‘‘I thought the subs we put on did really well for us. They changed the game.

‘‘Matt Swan has had a hamstring problem we’ve nursed him through, but he is a quality player to have on the bench.

‘‘Koro did really well, too. He gave us energy in the middle of the park.’’

However, in a blow to Olympic, Matt Swan is set to miss the grand final after securing a new job in Western Australia. He is due to fly out on Thursday.

As well as Wheelhouse, the Jaffas were without Hakan Canli and Kevin Davison.

Tanchevski agreed that the changes late in the game were decisive.

‘‘The first 70 we were really good,’’ Tanchevski said. ‘‘But the changes hurt us. We had two injuries and I had three boys on the bench who were 17 years of age and under22s who had hardly any first-grade time.

‘‘Alex Palozzi was the only regular first-grader there.

‘‘Their subs came on and made a difference for them, whereas we were running a bit thin today. That probably hurt us a bit.’’

However, he was full of praise for teenager defender Michael Williams and former Leeds United star Michael Bridges, who made a rare starting appearance in place of Wheelhouse and set up Remington’s goal with a deft touch.

‘‘Michael Williams had a great game and was our players’ player,’’ he said.

‘‘Bridgey and Jamie Byrnes did well for us and when they came off. That’s when we lost our way a bit.’’

Hamilton play the Eagles in the grand final on Sunday.

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