Adelaide United Reserves Head Coach, Adrian Stenta, says he is proud of his players after being crowned Premiers of the National Premier League Reserves competition on goal difference.
The Reds finished the regular season at the top of the table for the second consecutive year in nail-biting fashion.
The race to the minor premiership went down to the wire as Adelaide, MetroStars and West Torrens Birkalla all came into Round 22 on 41 points and were separated by just goal difference.
United’s goal difference was +25 to Metro’s +27, while Birkalla’s was +11 after 21 matches.
However, a rampant 5-1 win over Para Hills meant United usurped the Klemzig-based club into first place after they could only produce a 2-1 victory against Adelaide City.
Stenta said he was most impressed with his players playing without fear regardless of the situation as well as their ability to take feedback on board from all the coaching staff.
“It’s been a bit of an up and down season,” Stenta said upon reflection of the regular season.
“But the players have worked very hard and fully deserving of the result and very happy for them that they’ve been able to once again back up last year and finish as minor premiers.
“We started particularly the first-half of the season was very strong for us, a lot of good results and didn’t really lose a game until towards the midpoint of the season.
“So early on players were playing really well and a lot of strong results.”
However, as Stenta alluded to, the year was not without its challenges after starting the season unbeaten from the opening nine games.
A disruptive second half of the season followed with players moving up to the Youth Team. Naturally it contributed to the side’s form beginning to wane.
“It’s probably been the back half of the season where we found the going got a little bit tougher,” he admitted.
“But that sort of coincided with some fairly wholesale changes and a lot of young boys from NTC coming in and playing a role.
“A lot of our Reserves squad members pushing up and starting and playing in Paul Pezos’ NPL side and doing a good job there.
“But a fairly disruptive second half of the year and that was a little bit more challenging but the boys have done a great job so really pleasing.”
Stenta revealed his side will likely be bolstered for the upcoming finals series.
“… Of course being the third side at the club we’re always dependent on what happens with the two sides above us,” he acknowledged.
“But we’ve got some good quality players who’ve played a few games in the NPL this year that may be available.
“Guys like Taras Gomulka and Jai King-Byrne who stepped up to a high level and did a really good job.
“But we’re also really confident with the core of the Reserves group that we’ve got and even the NTC boys that have been coming through too.
“Carl Veart (NTC Head Coach) has been really flexible and supportive there too so we’re confident no matter who lines up for us we’ll be able to have a successful finals series.”
The Young Reds now take on MetroStars in the first leg of a semi-final clash at Adelaide Shores Football Centre on Sunday.
Stenta expected another tough encounter as the team eye more silverware and back-to-back Championships.
“We’ve had a couple of really challenging games against Metro this year,” he said.
“Fortunately, we’ve been able to come out on top on both occasions but I know even dating back to last year the team played Metro five times and in the grand final as well.
“So they’re going to be a really tough opposition, they’re a really, really good club and we always have fantastic games against them.
“So we’ll just prepare as best we can and we’ll go into this week’s game and over the next two weeks with our winning mentality and try and do whatever we can to get the job done.”
Adelaide United Youth Reserves face MetroStars Reserves in the Semi Final First Leg of the National Premier League Reserves 2018 Finals Series on Sunday, 12 August at Adelaide Shores Football Centre. Kick-off is at 12:00 PM.