Western United’s Under 23’s side booked its place in NPL 2 for next season after a stunning 6-1 win over Goulburn Valley Suns in Saturday afternoon’s promotion play-off.
After a cagey beginning at Valley Park Events Centre, United seized control of the match and ran away with it beyond the opening 20 minutes.
Soon after Sabit Ngor had a big chance turned away by the goalkeeper, United opened the scoring thanks to some lovely play down the left-wing by Christian Theoharous, whose cutback was buried in the bottom corner by Luke Duzel.
It was two in less than 10 minutes when a piece of impudence from Theoharous saw the winger put his own name on the scoresheet as he rolled a free-kick under the wall and into the bottom right corner.
Theoharous was at his creative best and set up the third just after half-time, swinging in a corner which Noah Holmes gleefully headed home unguarded at the back post.
United put together a lovely team move to make it four, switching the play from left to right before Ngor squared it for Noah Botic to roll home from inside the six-yard box.
Holmes got his second and the pick of the bunch in the 80th minute, firing a 30-yard bomb into the top left corner as the Goulburn goalkeeper watched on helplessly.
In just his second game back from injury, Jake Najdovski added the final goal off the bench after another slick passage of Western United play.
After a wonderful outside of the foot pass from Ben Collins, Theoharous found Jordan Lauton with space to run into the box and put the ball on a plate for Najdovski to convert off the underside of the crossbar.
Goulburn managed a consolation goal just before the final whistle but the damage was well and truly done, as United confirmed its promotion at the first time of asking.
Western Untied Academy Director and Senior’s Head Coach Anthony Frost was delighted with the performance and excited to see his team compete at a higher level in 2023.
“The result is really incredibly special for the Club, and I’m just so proud of all the players and all the staff, all of the support we have from everyone around the club, especially first team coaches, first team players, everyone,” he said.
“We’re so thankful for their commitment throughout the year and its great that we get the reward for all the hard work that we’ve done this year.
“I’m really pleased we were able to win so emphatically and put in a top performance. It caps off the year really nicely, we couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Frost said making the step up to the second tier of NPL Victoria will provide greater opportunities for Academy players to prepare themselves for breaking into Western United’s A-League Men squad.
“NPL 2 gives us a better platform in order to ensure that we get high quality games on a regular basis, not only for the Under 23’s but also for the Under 21’s as well,” he said.
“Today was really important for the Club, we can be extremely proud of our effort all the way throughout the year, and to wrap promotion up today in a pressure game, we’re incredibly pleased. It’s another stepping stone forward for our academy, and hopefully in years to come we can push even higher.”
The Green and Black will now prepare for the next step in its Academy journey, with the likes of Bulleen Lions, Brunswick City and Werribee City waiting in NPL 2.