By TONY BLANCH
GRAFTON Gunners GI Hotel team went down to Orara 1-0 in the grand final of the Clarence-Coffs Premier League competition.
The game started off steadily with both teams feeling each other out.
As the game went on the Gunners started to put pressure on the Orara fullbacks with some deft passing and they had their best chance of the first half when striker Phil Hirst chased down a cross from son Brodyn Hirst and put up a high searching ball into the box, where the Orara keeper lost control.
The Gunners players tried valiantly to pick up the scraps but to their dismay, when Andrew Laverty looked to have put the ball over the line, an Orara defender suddenly headed it off the line.
At the other end of the paddock, stopper Mick Skinner and sweeper Mick Duroux were cleaning up anything the Orara strikers put at them.
The Gunners had one more opportunity when midfielder Brad Grieves picked up a half-volley from about 25 yards out and struck it hard and fast, only to see the Orara keeper tip it over the bar and leave the score at nil-all at half-time.
The Gunners created more of the chances in the first half could sense it was only a matter of time before they would score in the second half.
Chances were again made with the best of them when Brodyn Hirst took a free kick about 30 yards out and found an unmarked Steve Challinor inside the sixyard box, only to see his header go off target with no goal keeper in sight.
The referee gave a corner kick to Orara, to the dismay of the crowd.
Orara's striker curled the ball over the Gunners' keeper's head and into the top right corner, giving Orara a 1-0 lead.
Gunners rallied hard in trying to get the equaliser with a number of attacks on the Orara goalmouth but were denied by last minute defence.
With five minutes to go centre mid-fielder Steve Challinor put a perfect ball into the box, where a flying Nathan Blanch headed the ball over the right hand post. This left the final score at 1-nil to Orara.
After the game coach Ken McKenzie praised all his players for a never-die effort in which the Gunners controlled 70 per cent of the game but just couldn't get that elusive goal.
Mick Skinner at stopper played his heart out and Phil Hirst up front always worried the Orara defence.