Maitland FC and Hamilton's battle for fourth spot goes down to wire

ASSIST: Maitland defender Alex Read set up Sean Pratt's winner with sheer determination.

ASSIST: Maitland defender Alex Read set up Sean Pratt's winner with sheer determination.

The Maitland Magpies’ hopes they had finally done enough to secure a finals spot lasted just 24 hours.

The Magpies delivered their part of the equation with a hard-fought 1-0 away win against second-placed Lambton Jaffas on Saturday.

But, Maitland coach Mick Bolch’s old side Hamilton Olympic again thwarted the Magpies finals plans with a 3-0 win against Broadmeadow Magic at Magic Park on Sunday.

Bolch had hoped to be able to give veteran stars Matt Thompson and the Swan brothers a well-earned rest going into the finals.

However, it will be all troops on board against Magic with the Magpies needing a win against Magic in their last-round clash at Cooks Square Park on Saturday.

If the Magpies win they’re in the finals, a draw or a loss opens the door for Hamilton who have to beat Weston Bears under lights on Saturday night to qualify.

Bolch was extremely proud of his team’s effort to keep their fate in their own hands with the 1-0 win against Lambton.

“The boys did really well,” he said. “I thought we matched them across the park all day.

“There weren’t many clear-cut chances, but at the end of the day we defended very well.

“The defence has been very good. We conceded two late goals against Edgeworth and Lakes but apart from that, it’s four clean sheets in the past six weeks.

“We’ve had a tough run home, if we make the semis we have done it the hard way and deserve it.”

Sean Pratt’s 41st minute goal was enough to secure the win.

Pratt was able to pounce of a tremendous effort by Jaffas keeper Brad Swancott to deny Magpies defender Alex Read’s smashing effort which looked certain to go into the top corner.

Read started the play taking the ball from Maitland’s own box raced down the field and tried to put Pratt through with a pass.

The ball deflected back to Read and he launched a shot which after a parry by Swancott finally found Pratt who calmly scored.

Read and teenage defender Zach Thomas were again outstanding in defence. Thomas has been in outstanding form and his switch to centre-back has been a huge part of the Magpies’s run of clean sheets.

“The Swan boys and Carl Thornton controlled the midfield for us and Zach Thomas and Ready have been great as the centre-back pair,” Bolch said. “Zach has been outstanding for us once we found the best spot him.”

In a great sign for the Magpies, Ryan Clarke played almost the full 90 minutes and was a constant threat the entire game.