BALLARAT goalkeeper Josh Ellen has been hailed a hero after sending his side through to the Ballarat District Soccer Association grand final in a nail-biting penalty shootout against Warrnambool on Sunday.
With scores locked at 1-1 after 120 minutes at Morshead Park on Sunday, Ellen was stoic between the goalposts to send his side through to the big dance, with the Red Devils winning 3-2 on penalties.
The shootout, however, was not without its own drama.
Twice Ellis made saves only for the kick to be retaken, with the referee ruling that he had moved off his line before the ball was struck.
In the end, however, it made little difference, as Ballarat held steady in the second semi-final to earn the week off and advance to the grand final in two weeks.
In a highly entertaining match, the low-scoring affair failed to tell the true story of the clash.
Neither side managed to break the deadlock in 90 minutes of regulation time, with scores remaining 0-0.
It was Warrnambool that appeared to have one foot in the grand final early on, finding the back of the net almost immediately as extra time started.
Ballarat heads could easily have dropped, but when Justin Whitcher got his head on the end of a perfect Luke Swards cross and headed past the Rangers goalkeeper, the Devils were all of a sudden back in the match.
Coach Tony Clayworth said he always had confidence in his side if it went to a penalty shootout, as Ellen had been on fire in goal all day.
“It was very nervous times, it was very exciting,” he said.
“When they went 1-0 up it was a big question that was asked of us. But we responded in a great way and it was great to see.
“Josh (Ellen) had been on fire all day. He had pulled off some amazing saves so I was always confident he could get the job done in a shootout.”
Ballarat now advances through to the grand final in two weeks, with its reserves and thirds also booking an early spot in the grand final.
There they will come up against either Warrnambool, which has a second chance to make the grand final, or North United.
North kept its grand final dream alive with a 3-0 win over Vic Park on Saturday.
As expected North was far too strong, and will meet Warrnambool in the preliminary grand final next week.