In the opening round of the 2018/19 A-League Finals Series, three players on different teams made their 100th competition appearance.

Of all players this season who have edged towards a key milestone, but have been made to wait to achieve it, it’s perhaps Lawrence Thomas who has had to wait the longest.

Thomas has sat on 99 appearances this season for over a month, before he was able to ‘raise the bat’ to bring up his ton for Melbourne Victory. 

Having featured in Victory’s 2-0 win over Perth in late March, Thomas relinquished the first choice position in Victory’s starting 11 throughout the whole of April.

But on Friday, after a month as second choice, Thomas finally was recalled on the big stage to help Victory progress to the A-League Semi Finals.

While it was Victory’s strikers Ola Toivonen and Kosta Barbarouses who struck the decisive blows for Victory, it was a welcome return between the posts for Thomas as he celebrated his return and century of appearances in the 3-1 win over Wellington Phoenix.

Thomas, 26, has been at Victory since the 2011-12 season, having been the second-choice keeper for much of his early career.  He played just 21 matches across five seasons at Victory, before becoming the first choice ‘keeper in his sixth season with the club.

In that season, Thomas played in 28 matches, including the Grand Final against Sydney FC, which was lost on penalties.

The following season Thomas again played every match, helping Victory to the Championship, winning the Joe Marston Medal for the player of the match in the Grand Final win over Newcastle Jets.

Many would view Adelaide’s hero in its Elimination Final win over Melbourne City FC on Sunday night as goal-scorer Ben Halloran who netted a dramatic winner in the final minute of extra time. 

But the Reds had centurion Paul Izzo to thank for keeping the home side in the clash, with the Adelaide-born stopper having pulled off a world class finger-tip save to deny a curling Shayon Harrison strike earlier in extra time in his 100th A-League appearance.

Izzo had also kept City at bay in regular time, denying Riley McGree’s powerful, stinging long-range drive. Those two saves proved crucial for the hosts and kept Adelaide’s sheet clean.

Directly opposite Izzo was City’s Jamie Maclaren, who was the third A-League player to notch 100 games during the first round of finals.

However despite early promise, Maclaren was unable to produce a match-winning performance for the visitors in his 100thA-League appearance, as he had done so with regularity earlier in the year.

City have pinned its hopes on Maclaren since Bruno Fornaroli’s exit. However, the 25-year-old has not scored since March, after a prolific start to his life at City with five goals in four matches. 

It was a devastating end to Maclaren and City’s season, as the bowed out to Halloran’s aforementioned winner.

Maclaren started his career in the West with Perth Glory, playing 38 matches in purple, before transferring to the Brisbane Roar. From there, Maclaren earned a deal with Darmstadt 98 in the second tier of German football system before going on loan on two occasions out to Scottish Premier League side Hibernian.

Maclaren arrived in Melbourne in January this year and added 9 A-League appearances to the previous 91 he had obtained with Glory and Roar.