Campbelltown City is the undisputed champion of South Australian soccer winning a fourth grand final in five years on Friday night.
Campbelltown beat Comets 3-1 at Hindmarsh Stadium to claim a hat-trick of consecutive grand finals after also winning the Australian NPL crown in 2018.
In what had become the longest SA NPL season on record after COVID-19 threw the game into chaos in March before a July restart, Campbelltown also issued Comets its second grand final loss in succession after a 3-0 win last year.
Ex-Sydney FC midfielder Alex Mullen was awarded man-of-the match which was voted by an unknown panel as Red Devils goalkeeper Nicholas Harpas and Comets’ Jayden Lo Basso also had first class matches.
After Campbelltown’s Josh Barresi opened the score in the 12th minute in front of 3212 fans on a balmy night the Red Devils took total control although Comets did test Harpas’ reflexes sporadically.
Barresi, a 25-year-old former Newcastle Jets attacking midfielder, stole the ball from a hesitant Comets defence, dribbled inside the box with ease before firing an eight metre shot past keeper Daniel Vaughan.
Just eight minutes later – another former A-League attacker Marc Marino – made Comets pay dearly.
He was allowed to drive an 18m shot into the bottom corner of the net without too much pressure after the reigning NPL premier’s defence became isolated from a hard Red Devils press.
Just as Marino looked to add a second goal after bouncing back from a harsh five-game suspension he was forced to end his shift in the 32nd minute, appearing to succumb to a groin injury.
Blake Carpenter made it 3-0 in the 64th minute when he thundered an angled left footed 12m thunderbolt into the corner.
Three minutes later Comets were awarded a penalty after a dubious handball inside the box.
Reigning Sergio Melta medallist Allan Welsh converted from the spot to give Comets a lifeline with about 23 minutes remaining but his goal became just a consolation.
Comets’ Tete Yengi seemed to have a better claim for a penalty in the 57th minute after Lo Basso looked the liveliest for premier throughout the clash with a tidy repertoire.
With Comets’ match weary legs tested early as Campbelltown – fresh from belting Adelaide City 4-0 last Friday after COVID-19 forced the game into a brief hibernation last month – was the much fresher outfit.
Comets’ last official match – a 3-0 win over Campbelltown in the second leg of the aggregate match for a direct route to the grand final – was on November 13.
And the 28-day gap between matches outside of friendly games certainly favoured the reigning champion from Newton.
As Comets looked to claw back the deficit the side was always a long pass away from a lethal counter attack from the well drilled Red Devils outfit led by coach Iain Fyfe.
Fyfe, 38, stepped into the Red Devils hot seat in September when Phill Stubbins resigned after a 5-1 loss to MetroStars TK Shutter Reserve.
Fyfe led the Red Devils to second place, a point behind premier Comets after all 22 home-and-away rounds were complete
NPL 2020 GRAND FINAL
Comets 1 (Allan Welsh 64m) Campbelltown City 3 (Josh Barresi 12m, Marc Marino 20m, Blake Carpenter 68m) at Hindmarsh Stadium – Referee: Daniel Cook – Crowd 3212.
Comets: Daniel Vaughan, Nathan Dimou, Adam Le Cornu, Scott Nagel, Jack Bladen, Ninko Beric, Allean Welsh (C), Jayden LoBasso, Daniel Vaughan, Andreas Weins, Tete Yengi.
Substitutes: Julian Torresan, Manley Barnett, Chris Christofolous, Tom Dittmar, Anthony Mavromalmbados, Ryan Yates.
Campbelltown City: Nicholas Harpas, Joel Allwright, Joshua Barresi, Blake Carpenter, Luigi Di Troia, Jake Halliday, Shaun Harvey (C), Marc Marino, Alex Mullen, Daniel Mullen, Adam Piscioneri.
Substitutes: Connor Centofanti, Nicholas Francese, Matt Mullen, Antony Piscioneri, Jamie Signoriello, Dino Kirk.