MUCH like his Oakleigh Cannons, Lambros Honos's match-winning penalty wasn't pretty, wasn't well hit but was effective as it took the Cannons through to the Victorian Premier League grand final.
The Cannons once again proved Dandenong Thunder's nemesis in the VPL major semi-final at George Andrews Reserve, Dandenong on Friday night.
The Thunder butchered several chances to score in the opening 25 minutes and while the Cannons created only a few chances, their finishing also lacked accuracy.
After the teams were locked at 0-0 on full time, the Cannons opened the scoring deep into the first extra time with Ricky Diaco's low cross deflected into the goal by Thunder midfielder Ross Thompson.
It looked a likely winner before Thunder star Nate Foster found himself some space on the right wing, turned inside towards goal and hit a left-foot shot low into the far left corner with just minutes left in the match.
Tied at 1-1, the game was decided on penalties. Thunder winger Liam Kearney missed his attempt as the Cannons made all five of their shots completed by midfield star Honos, who tapped home the winner, out-waiting a diving Stuart Webster in the Thunder goals before rolling home his shot.
The win gave the Cannons direct entry into the grand final at AAMI Park on October 14 where they will look to make up for a loss to Green Gully in last year's final.
They will face the winner of the Thunder versus either Northcote City or Green Gully in the preliminary final this Saturday at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex at 3pm.
Northcote City played Green Gully in the elimination semi-final yesterday, with the match finishing after the Weekly went to print.
Cannons co-coach Peter Zois admitted post-game he had considered swapping Honos with fourth taker Rasmus Festersen during training last week.
"I have a lot of confidence in him [Honos] as a player, but watching him take penalties throughout the week I thought to myself, maybe we would reverse our order and have Rasmus take the fifth and Honos the fourth," Zois said.
"So I was quietly not feeling that confident.
"All I said was, guys, take your time, get an extra breath and put the ball where you want it.
"Then make sure you hit the back of the net."
Zois added that while the Cannons may not have started as favourites, the players were confident they could beat the Thunder.
"We have got exactly where we thought we belonged," he said. With a two-week break before the grand final, the Cannons will monitor injuries to Ari Dracos and Hayden Doyle which forced both players to be substituted.
Zois said Dracos's injury was only minor and the change was a precaution, while Doyle remains questionable as he re-injured his knee after troubles late in the season.
Thunder coach Chris Taylor put the blame for the defeat squarely on his players' finishing, with the Thunder unable to convert any of the numerous chances created in the opening 25 minutes of the match.
"We have no complaints at the end of the day because we had the chance to win the game and if you don't put those chances away this is what happens to you," he said.
Taylor said his side was desperate for a rematch against the Cannons.
"We just want to play them again. We know we are a lot better than them.
"And hopefully we can get through this week and show them just how good we are."
Asked to respond to Taylor's comments, Zois answered in two words.
"We won," he said.