Charlestown Azzurri are eyeing an incredible comeback to finish in the top three after in-form pair Nathan Archbold and Rene Ferguson inspired them to a 10-man victory on Sunday.
Azzurri beat Weston 1-0 at Lisle Carr Oval in round 12 with a header from Ferguson in the 82nd minute off a Regan Lundy corner. That came two minutes after skipper Matt Tull was shown a second yellow card after a confrontation with Bears captain Nathan Morris.
In-demand keeper Archbold, who re-signed this week for 2021, had kept Charlestown in the game with three diving saves between the 63rd and 67th minutes.
Charlestown rose to sixth on 17 points and all but ended the play-off hopes of the Bears, who have 15 points and one game - against Lake Macquarie - to play. Azzurri have matches against Broadmeadow and Lakes to go and can finish as high as third. That would be a remarkable effort given they had just one point from their opening four games of the 13-match season.
Azzurri finished with nine men when they defeated Weston 2-1 in round five.
"It's just the character of the squad, when things go against us, we lift a level," Azzurri coach Graham Law said. "It's a rewarding win because with the ball we've played better and got nothing. But not losing becomes as much a habit as losing."
In a boost for Azzurri, three-time league top-scorer Kane Goodchild returned from injury off the bench for the first time this year.