Port United came from a goal down to jump from seventh to fifth on the Coastal Premier League ladder with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Sawtell at Toormina Oval on Saturday.
Matt Bale and Ben Oakley found the back of the net with second-half strikes as Nathan Wade’s men returned from a tough road trip with all three points.
In the process they put themselves back into finals contention and closed the gap between themselves and second-placed Coffs Coast Tigers to three points.
United still have five games to play before the finals while the Tigers only have three.
“We haven’t got any say in if the other teams win, but we do have a say in our own games if we want to make the semis so that’s where we’re at,” Wade said.
“We had a bit of a mid-season hiccup and I think the FFA Cup played a little bit of a part in that and is a bit of a distraction.
“But we did have a solid 5-1 win against Port Saints and we should have beat Rangers, but it just didn’t go in so we could have been three in a row now.”
Wade felt his side was “close” to turning their mid-season form around.
Sawtell coach Joe Skrtic was once again left to wonder what he can do differently to get a complete 90-minute performance from his side.
The Scorpions were good in patches, but they couldn’t maintain their effort when United went up a gear.
“That’s been our problem. We can’t seem to sustain that 90 minutes of playing good football; it’s in patches and it’s disappointing,” he said.
When Keeden Corliss opened the scoring 30 seconds into the second half, Skrtic could see the confidence levels start to increase in his team.
But it wasn’t to be.
“It felt like after the goal, United stepped up a gear and we dropped down a gear and our ability to keep the ball let us down,” the coach said.
“A few simple errors occurred and allowed United back into the game and the victory.”
In other matches, Port Saints kept their faint finals hopes alive with a surprise 2-1 win over Northern Storm while Kempsey Saints cruised past Taree Wildcats 5-1.
Coffs Coast Tigers ran rampant in a 6-0 hammering of Macleay Valley while Coffs United maintained their winning ways, but were pushed all the way in a 1-0 win over Boambee.