After pushing Northern Hearts all the way this season, Meadowbank United has had to settle for second place in the second division of the South Canterbury football league.
Tied at the top of the competition ladder on 43 points, Meadowbank and Hearts clashed in a double-header in Oamaru on Saturday and Sunday.
Hearts drew first blood with a 1-0 win at the Oamaru Showgrounds on Saturday, which meant Meadowbank had to beat its rivals from across the bridge by four or more goals the next day to claim the league title.
While Meadowbank won 2-1 on Sunday through goals to Marty Bell and Logan van Rooy, it was unable to cancel out the goal difference and finished the league in second place.
Both teams finished on 46 points, with Meadowbank four goals adrift after the weekend’s action.
Meadowbank player-coach Karl Burke praised his side’s determination, but said two games in as many days was a bridge too far.
“We were reasonably happy with the effort but two games in the weekend, especially for the older ones, was pushing it a wee bit, so we did really, really well to last.
“All of our games this year with Northern Hearts .. they’ve just been absolute ding-dong battles, and there’s only sort of one mistake or piece of brilliant play between the two teams.”
The season’s other clash between the two sides was in Timaru, where Hearts won 2-1.
Burke was pleased with Meadowbank’s work rate, but lamented some of the passing in Saturday’s game that he said let the side down.
Overall, he was delighted with how the squad had performed in 2017.
“We looked at the squad that we had available to us and basically said that if we’re not challenging for the league come the end of the season, we’ll be disappointed.
“To finish on the same points and essentially an identical record, except for four goals, as the eventual league winners, we’re quite happy with the way things turned out.”
He was confident the club would retain the bulk of this year’s squad in 2018.
Meanwhile, Meadowbank’s women destroyed Pleasant Point 13-0 in Oamaru on Sunday.
Caitlan Lee and Aynsley Martin each scored four goals, Kayleigh Holmes and Tessa Boys added two each, and Twyla Kingan bagged one.
Burke, who also coaches the women’s side, said the ease of the win was unexpected.
“I suppose you can call them the bogey team for our women. They always struggle to get a result against them and historically, they’re always really, really tight games.
“We were quite surprised to run away with it like we did on Sunday.”
The women’s team has its final game of the season against Timaru City in Oamaru on Sunday.