Only on the final day was Altona City afforded any breathing space en route to the Football Federation Victoria men’s state league 2 north-west title.
City was a mere whisker in front of second-placed Hoppers Crossing for most of the season, needing to win just about every game they played to stave off the rival threat.
For 21 weeks, City supporters were on edge, but a calmness descended over them in week 22, the day they clinched the league.
Altona City was able to put the title in the history books early on in a comfortable 3-0 win over Diamond Valley United at Kim Reserve on Saturday, then just lap up the adulation coming from their fans.
Across town, Hoppers Crossing never fired a shot on the final day, losing 2-0 to Fitzroy City, making it even more certain that City was bound for the title.
It was the first time all season that City could play their football with barely a care in the world. It was a fitting finale for a side that had been the most dominant and worthy champions in the competition.
“You could tell the pressure was off,” City president Joe Tanti said.
“The boys had been under the pump all year, we lost one game for the whole season and only won the league by three points, so it was tight all along.
“But the boys didn’t feel the pressure as much today. They expressed themselves a bit more out on the ground.”
Max Wright found the back of the net to put Altona City in the lead.
Further goals to Ayodeji Omoboye and Marcus Sherif kicked off the championship party for City.
David Taylor filed a best-afield game in his playmaking role from the midfield, but picked up a fifth yellow card that will rule him out for the state league 1 final against Eltham Redbacks.
James Neighbour was again rock solid in defence, leaving goalkeeper Jack Dovey with little to do on the day.
This was the time to fully appreciate the creator of Altona City’s joy, coach Andy O’Dell.
O’Dell has totally shifted the way people look at City in under two years since he has been with the club.
“Andy’s turned the club around,” Tanti said.
“He’s come in and we’ve only had two losses since he’s been at the club in nearly two years.
“We’ve been pretty spoilt with him.
“He knows how to get the boys up each week.”
In state league 1, James McGarry scored a double as Altona Magic ended the season in fine style with a 4-1 win over Essendon Royals that saw them finish eight points clear on top from second-placed Geelong.
The Magic will square off with the south-east champions Langwarrin on Saturday at
J.L. Murphy Reserve to determine which team is the best in state league for 2017.