'Relaxed' Thomas revels in Victory's Grand Final glory
Joe Marston medal winner Lawrence Thomas says Melbourne Victory’s Grand Final win was a fitting end to a tumultuous season for the club after Kevin Muscat’s side clinched a record-breaking fourth Hyundai A-League Championship with a 1-0 triumph over Newcastle Jets.
Thomas became the fifth Victory player and second goalkeeper in Hyundai A-League history to win the medal for man-of-the-match after a commanding performance in which the 25-year-old repelled the Jets with a string of fine saves.
It included a sensational double save to deny Riley McGree and Jason Hoffman in the first-half as Victory absorbed an onslaught from the home side.
After a season in which the former Sheffield United goalkeeper cemented his status as one of the competition’s best gloveman, Thomas paid tribute to a battling defensive performance from the visitors who turned in a classic show of Grand Final grit to deny the Jets a fairytale win.
“It’s a bit similar to our season – it’s been a rollercoaster and we had to grind this one out,” he said.
“We couldn’t have started in a better manner, to silence the home crowd early on was massive.
“They’re (Newcastle) a very good footballing side and they had a lot of possession, but the Grand Final isn’t about how you play it’s about getting the result.
“Outside of myself even though I made those few saves for the amount of pressure we were under the back four back six were outstanding.”
Having finished the regular campaign in fourth position, Victory became the first Hyundai A-League club to claim the Grand Final prize from outside the top two.
And although Muscat’s side may have entered the clash carrying more big-match experience, the visitors had to withstand the cauldron of home town support echoing around McDonald Jones Stadium and all the accompanying pressure.
The resilience shown by the Victory squad was underscored by Thomas’ heroics in goal, and the Melbourne gloveman remarked it was a sign of how far the Victory number one has progressed.
“A big part of my mental game is to stay in the game and play the game purely for what it is and not get too caught up in the environment outside,” he said.
“Tonight was another one where I just tried to stay relaxed the whole time and just play each ball for what it is and before you knew it it was full time.
“I think that just comes with playing games and experience – when you’re at a big club as a goalkeeper if you don’t perform you get dragged quite quickly.
“I’m at a point now where I come out and I’m still very relaxed and very focused and it takes time and experience.”