Top ploy: Pride's winning edge in epic shoot-out final
FOOTBALL: Western Pride are celebrating another historic achievement after the club's under-18 supremos survived a penalty shoot-out to upstage a powerful Brisbane City side.
After praising his hard-working young players for being the National Premier League champions two years in a row, coach Jordan Manning shared the extra effort that lifted Pride to glory.
In recent weeks, Manning and his assistant Hayden Mchenery introduced special penalty shooting sessions into regular training knowing that could be required in finals.
The ploy worked with Pride's young guns taking charge in Saturday's penalty shoot-out after both teams were still deadlocked 2-2 after 30 minutes of extra time.
Pride won the shoot-out 4-2 with the Ipswich club's determined goalkeeper Daniel Cupac making two crucial saves.
"We've been working on them for weeks,'' Manning said of taking penalties.
"Since we confirmed that we'd be making finals, we've just been working on them session after session so the boys would feel confident stepping up, which is positive.
"We were able to handle the pressure of the moment.''
In the first 90 minutes of the grand final, Jackson Bray put Pride up 1-0 before City equalised.
Bray scored again in the second half before the home side again netted another quality goal, sending the game into extra time.
"City scored two great goals but the boys just kept going, didn't drop their heads,'' Manning said.
In the penalty shootout, the confident and accomplished Cupac was the standout performer, twice blocking City's shots.
"And we didn't miss one at all,'' the proud coach said.
Manning said learning to take, and save, penalties was part of his young team's development.
He said the idea to do extra penalty shoot-out work also came from Pride small-sided games each week.
"When the teams draw, we came up with the solution that we'd do pens (penalties),'' Manning said.
"It was just something that was so small at the time and just developed into something that was a bit of a habit.
"We just wanted to keep the boys focused on getting the job done.
"It proved to be successful at the end of the day.''
Brisbane City finished the regular season on top of the under-18 competition with Pride third. That made Pride's latest victory more satisfying after the under-18 team last year won the Ipswich club's first major title in any grade.
"Back-to-back premierships is pretty exciting,'' Manning said, having overseen both sides.
"As a young coach, it's some-thing that I really enjoy and working with the boys has been great.
"But it's two different groups and two different stories really.
"Last year, it was just a talented group of boys that were able to do it. This year, it was just hard work.
"The group were just exceptional in the way that it didn't matter what we asked, what we threw at them, they continued to work hard, knuckle down and get the result.''
As for his future, 20-year-old coach of the future Manning said he would take a break and a holiday while completing his sports science degree this year.
After working with Pride's under-18 and under-20 teams all season, Manning thanked Pride head coach Reg Davani for his tremendous support.
"Regi has been super for us,'' Manning said. "He provides everyone with so much confidence and belief in our own ability.
"He's just a warm and welcoming guy. He's so encouraging. It's been great to have him around and steady the ship.''
NPL U18 grand final: Western Pride def Brisbane City 4-2 on penalties after scores were deadlocked at 2-2. Jackson Bray scored both of Pride's goals in normal time.