Last-gasp United Clinch the Cup.


It was truly a blockbuster between two of the association’s modern greats!

Melkie Woldemichael underlined his status as the ultimate man for the big occasion with two goals in Saturday night’s cup final to clinch the ‘double treble’ for Albury United.

Woldemichael scored the winner in the 89th minute at a rambunctious Lavington Sports Ground to sink a valiant Myrtleford as a dramatic game finished 2-1.

The Greens have been unstoppable in 2022-23, winning two league championships, two FA Cups and now two Division 1 men’s grand finals under the coaching of Matt Campbell.

Despite finishing seventh in the league, Myrtleford proved worthy cup final opponents and pushed United all the way, only to become the latest victims of a side which seems to have limitless belief in its ability to rescue, and win, the big games when time has almost run out.

Alex Howard lifted the cup aloft to make it a double celebration for United, who also claimed victory in the Division 1 women’s final.

“I think it’s the same as last year, I’m just relieved,” Campbell said.

“Having such a talented group, I feel the pressure to win things like this.

“Myrtleford were really good; I thought we started well but didn’t quite finish a couple of our chances.

“Gradually, Myrtleford started to get a bit of ball and we went away from our game plan a little bit, the last 15 minutes of the first half.

“It was all one-out stuff – ‘let’s just bomb it to Melkie or Sajan or someone’ – so at half-time we tried to bring it back to keeping the ball a bit.

“They were getting at us down their left wing but we were also getting at them down our left wing and that was right in front of our bench in the second half so we were encouraging that a little bit with Sajan and Melkie to come and work on that.

“Ultimately, that paid off – but what an arm wrestle which could have gone either way.

“Both teams had chances if they’d won, I would have rued the fact we had those couple of half-chances in the first 20 minutes and didn’t hit the target.

“They had patches when they thought they were a real chance to score and they did but ‘Melks’ was good enough to stick one away.”

United captain Howard sidefooted wide after an early corner ran kindly for him in the Savoy box, before Jordan Hore fired just past the post when Melkie Woldemichael burst down the left and picked him out in the middle.

Aidan Rees took a touch and fired straight at Nathan Gleeson but Myrtleford then began to create a few openings of their own.

Leeam Hughes stung the palms of Jay Barker and Josh Zito spanked a shot over the bar after making room for himself on the edge of the box.

Jack Milford’s clever ball over the top sent Tom Caplin running to the byline and he delivered for Matthew Richardson, who couldn’t keep his shot down.

But the opening 45 minutes was an arm wrestle, with chances at a premium.

The tricky Sajan Mahji did well to spin on the edge of the box but Gleeson got right behind his left-footed shot as the first half finished goalless.

Gleeson thwarted United again shortly after the break, arching his back and tipping a Ryan Luty free-kick over the bar.

Howard then embarked on a mazy run forward from centre-half, tip-toeing his way into the Savoy box before eventually being halted by a blue foot.

Back came the Savoy and Barker threw himself into a brave double save with boots flying in around him in a crowded six-yard box.

But United hit the front on 57 minutes with a goal of the highest quality.

Woldemichael spun out of traffic on the halfway line, stormed deep into the Myrtleford half and having set Mahji free down the left, got himself on the end of the winger’s cutback and planted a firm shot low beyond Gleeson’s left hand.

Hughes, becoming increasingly influential down the Savoy left, stepped inside and lashed a shot over as the 2018 cup winners searched for an instant response.

How Myrtleford didn’t equaliser midway through the second half is anyone’s guess, Milford heading against the bar and Richardson scooping the rebound up and over the bar from point-blank range.

Urged on by a pumped-up Myrtleford crowd in the grandstand, the Savoy continued to push and Richardson fired over before the equaliser arrived 17 minutes from time.

Hughes beat Indra Guragain, drove to the byline and his cutback was rifled into the roof of the net by Zito to send the travelling fans wild.

Hughes fed Milford, whose shot on the turn was gathered by Barker as the game began to really open up.

Rees swung over a free-kick for United which caused an almighty scramble but when the ball dropped at Kris Wheeler’s feet in front of goal, he ballooned his effort horribly and the chance was gone.

Lewis Halloway did well to cut the ball back from the Myrtleford right but just as Caplin pulled the trigger, Seb Dalitz arrived with a goal-saving block.

The Savoy supporters were roaring with excitement when Halloway led a break down the right but Howard did superbly did get back and dispossess him in the penalty area.

Extra time beckoned, with just a minute of the 90 remaining, but United had other ideas.

Caleb Martin broke through midfield, spread play wide for Mahji and when his pass reached Woldemichael, beating the outstretched leg of a tiring Brayden Gasperotti, the man who always delivers on the big occasion slid the ball low beyond Gleeson to get the United party started.

“Melkie’s highly motivated to succeed and that’s within him, that’s not anything we had to encourage,” Campbell said.

“He has a strong desire and he’s just a machine; his work-rate is through the roof.

“When you get to the 80th minute in a game, if you’re defending him, he’s licking his lips, he’s like ‘I’ve got 15 minutes of this to go, can you handle that?’

“That’s probably a little bit of what happened there with five minutes to go; his energy and work-rate saw him through and he did well to finish it.”

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Albury United’s players party with the trophy at Lavington Sports Ground. Picture by MARK JESSER