IT MIGHT have been more grit than glamour, but Saturday’s National Premier Leagues Victoria triumph over Northcote City will go down as the Ballarat Red Devils’ greatest accomplishment to date.
The visiting side ran rings around last year’s Victorian Premier League champions to secure a 3-1 win at the John Cain Memorial Park in Darebin.
Ballarat now sits at 2-0 after three rounds of play.
Early signs looked grim for the McDonalds Reds, who were put under immense pressure by their Northcote counterparts for much of the first half.
Eventually Ballarat’s nimble bodies and fast, punchy attacks started to impact on the match and surprise goals to Dom Swinton (31st minute) and Pat Karras (36’) against the run of play gave the side a 2-0 half-time lead.
Red Devils had several chances to put Northcote away immediately after the break but were wasteful in front of goal.
This, subsequently sparked the home side into greater action.
Wade Dekker hauled Northcote back into the contest at the 57-minute mark in what was to be the first of a host of equaliser opportunities.
Ballarat was gifted a penalty with 15 minutes left and Shaun Romein made no mistake in finding the back of the net to put the score beyond doubt.
Red Devils keeper Aaron Romein was nothing less than herculean and finished the match as he started it – with numerous clutch saves.
Nelson Salvatore was electric down the wing and Simon Murphy was influential in sending the Red Devils forward.
While relieved to get the three points, Ballarat Red Devils coach James Robinson said the team was some way off its best.
When asked post-match if he was pleased with the overall performance Robinson replied “not really”.
“We know what we had to do within our structure and at times we didn’t do that - there was certain situations and scenarios that happened in the first half that weren’t good for us,” Robinson said.
“Did we get out of jail? I think we did but we battled it out, we ground it out, we took our chances and we came away with the three points.
“Wins like this, when you know your players aren’t hitting their straps, are absolutely crucial.”