Perth Glory coach Ian Ferguson says his team's tremendous character got them over the line in a thrilling 3-2 extra-time victory against Wellington in the Hyundai A-League minor semi-final.
Perth Glory coach Ian Ferguson says his team's tremendous character got them over the line in a thrilling 3-2 extra-time victory against Wellington in Hyundai A-League minor semi-final.
The Glory's best season in A-League history looked set to end when the Phoenix led 2-1 with 18 minutes left but Billy Mehmet's equaliser and Todd Howarth's magnificent 112th-minute winner kept them alive.
Perth will now go on the road to face either Central Coast or Brisbane in next Saturday's preliminary final, with the Mariners more likely to be their opponents as they must overturn a 2-0 deficit heading into Sunday's second leg of their major semi-final with Brisbane.
If the Glory can win that game, they would then advance to the Grand Final for the first time since their 2004 National Soccer League title.
Ferguson wasn't keen to look that far ahead though, instead saying he thought the resilience his team showed to battle back from an eight minute spell early in the second half, where Wellington took the lead with two quick goals, was phenomenal.
"I thought the character was tremendous," Ferguson said.
"We go one up and then we get in at half-time but then for 10 minutes in the second half we didn't turn up and Wellington got two goals. That's where the character comes in ... then momentum carried us through."
"It's like a rollerc-oaster ... but when we got that equaliser it was euphoria and then brilliant when we got the winner."
"I'm not going to start shouting that we're going to be in the Grand Final or we're going to win the Grand Final. It's an opportunity for us and it's great motivation."
Ferguson said the influence substitutes Steven McGarry, Howarth and Scott Neville had when they came on was crucial to the outcome.
Howarth and Neville worked an outstanding one-two move to set up the winner, while McGarry helped swing the momentum of the game with his energy even though he was in major doubt after suffering an injury in training on the eve of the game.
"I honestly didn't want to play him and if we could've rested him and got through this game it would've been great," Ferguson said.
"But we had no choice. He's been such an influential player for us this season."
While McGarry had a big impact, Howarth was the man of the moment and the 30-year-old described the feeling as 'overwhelming'.
"It's definitely the best moment [of his career]. Scoring in a final is an awesome feeling," he said.
Howarth said he hadn't been spoken to about extending his contract, which expires at season's end, and hoped his performance would boost his chances of earning a new deal.