Avondale are back on the winners list after a second-half hat trick from Liam Boland lead them to a 3-1 victory over Kingston City on Saturday night.
The win could not have come at a better time for the Avengers, snapping a five-game winless streak and extending their lead on top of the table to four points.
It was a must-win game for the Azzurri, and despite the end result, things got off to a more than shaky start for the visitors.
Last-placed Kingston shocked everybody when they took the lead just five minutes in after Anthony Theo tapped home a ball from a corner, with Avondale’s defending leaving a lot to be desired.
It was the worst-possible start for the Azzurri, sending thoughts of ‘here we go again’ through the minds of the Avondale faithful – thoughts that only intensified after the visitors let a series of great chances slip through their fingers.
A well-placed shot from Boland was turned away by Kingston keeper Satoshi Osugi, before Tasuku Sekiya unleashed a thunderous strike that crashed into the crossbar.
Down the other end though Kingston weren’t content with just one goal and had chances of their own to extend their lead. Theo forced Chris Oldfield to make a save and a dangerous shot from Damian Iaconis flashed just wide of the post.
Despite dominating possession and controlling most of the game, a visibly frustrated Avondale side were forced to head to the sheds trailing at half time.
Head coach Zoran Markovski implored his players to remain calm at the break, insisting that goals would come despite the missed chances.
He insisted Avondale were capable of scoring three goals in five minutes in the second half, but he was wrong – they scored three goals in eight.
It was Boland who broke the seal for the Azzurri, the big man controlled the ball from a delightful cross delivered by Dillon Jakupi before neatly tucking his shot home to bring the sides level.
The goal provided an instant lift for Avondale who now had all the momentum to go on and take the lead, but that momentum was almost brought to a screeching halt when defender Scott Hilliar was shown a straight red card after exchanging words with the referee.
The sending off came less than two minutes after Boland’s equaliser and threatened to derail the comeback the visitors had been so desperate to start, offering Kingston an avenue back into the contest.
But despite being down a man for the first time this season, the disadvantage did little to stall the Avondale revival.
Eighty seconds after the red card the visitors were awarded a penalty when the eagle-eyed referee spotted a handball inside the box. Boland stepped up and slotted the spot kick home, giving his side a well-deserved lead.
Boland then had the perfect chance to secure his hat trick after Avondale were awarded another penalty when he was brought down going for a header before once again converting his spot kick.
The hat trick was Boland’s second of the season and put the icing on the comeback cake for the Avengers who saw the rest game out to clinch all three points.
The win sees Avondale’s lead on top of the table grow – they are now four points clear of second-placed Heidelberg and five points ahead of third-placed Bentleigh. The Bergers, who defeated the Knights 1-0 on Friday night, jumped into second place after the Greens were held to a 1-1 draw with Green Gully.
Meanwhile a loss for Kingston leaves them firmly rooted to the bottom of the table, five points away from relegation safety.
Avondale will be looking to win two in a row next weekend when they take on South Melbourne at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday at 4:00pm.