ECU Joondalup’s miraculous turnaround in form culminated in it securing a place in the National Premier Leagues WA Top Four Cup at the climax of the season.
It is the first time the Jacks have made the finals since 2010.
They were in ninth place after a round 10 loss and appeared little chance of making a dent in the league. But a stunning resurgence had ECU remain undefeated for the rest of the season, winning 10 games and drawing just two.
Their spot was not confirmed until the last round when they had to beat or draw with Inglewood United.
ECU won the match 1-0, finishing the year in third spot and costing Inglewood a league title in the process.
The team is the best-performed side heading into the top four play-off with an elimination final against Floreat Athena at ECU Joondalup Football Stadium on Saturday.
But in a cruel blow, a knee injury to star goal scorer Gordon Smith could prove costly.
After last weekend’s win, coach Dale McCulloch told nplwa.com.au it was a bitter blow to lose Smith, but the side would adapt.
“We’ve come a long way this season, I think in round 10 we only had nine points and sitting fourth from bottom,” he said. “But we got on a good run and we’re in the finals.”
]“I’ve never played in the finals at the club so I can’t wait… it’s been a great effort from the whole squad.”
Cross-town rivals Sorrento nearly pulled off an unlikely finals entry of their own but were defeated 1-0 by Perth, which claimed the league title with the victory.
In a bitter finish, an own goal to captain Daryl Platten at the 75-minute mark proved the winner for the visitors at Percy Doyle Reserve.
The Gulls only needed to draw the match to make the top four, but ended up sixth on equal points with Bayswater City (fifth) and Floreat Athena (fourth), which had superior goal difference.
Coach Jamie Harnwell was forthright in his response to the loss.
“We’re bitterly disappointed because one point would have got us into the top four,” he said..
“But the start and finish we had to the season was first class.“We just lost our way a bit in the middle and that’s what ultimately cost us.”