IT will be an all-Tamworth Northern Inland Premier League decider after North Companions and Oxley Vale Attunga procured contrasting semi-final wins in Tamworth on Saturday.
While Companions accounted for East Armidale 3-nil at Johnson Field to win through to their first grand final in eight years, the Mushies scrambled their way to a 3-2 win over a gallant Demon Knights at Ken Chillingworth Oval.
The defending champions twice levelled before hitting the front with 18 to go.
Lachlan Browne slotted what turned out to be the matchwinner in somewhat unfortunate circumstances for the visitors, with DK keeper Luke Birmingham saving the initial free kick.
Unfortunately though he batted it virtually straight to Browne, who did the rest.
The home side had the better of the early passages but found themselves down 1-nil when DK unleashed Callan McGregor down the right and he linked up with Josh Quaife.
From there the momentum turned but DK couldn’t make it count and, right on half-time, Adam Watson threaded the needle to find Brendan Fergie and make it 1-all.
McGregor restored DK’s lead early in the second half only for Watson to tap in on the right post from a sideline kick and draw OVA level with 34 to go.
Browne then kicked them into an eighth straight grand final.
“The boys just know how to get there,” Mushies coach Tim Coates said.
In contrast, it is the first time Companions have qualified for the grand final since 2007.
“We played well,” coach Gavin Thompson said.
“We spoke at training and before the game about keeping their danger players out of the game.
“We did that most of the game.”
They were able to cut the supply to Hoani Morrell and Naran Singh up front.
“Everything I spoke about at training we pulled it off,” he said.
That said, it wasn’t as easy as the scoreline indicates.
“They’re a good side,” Thompson said.
“They still played some good football.”
It took them until deep into the first half to break the East Armidale resistance.
Eventually they did, with Jake Thompson scoring a cracker from the edge of the penalty box at the 35th minute mark.
“He beat three players, hit it, it hit the cross-bar and went in,” Thompson said.
It gave them some reward for the dominance he felt they had.
“We were controlling the game,” he said.
Will Kam made it 2-nil about 15 minutes into the second half with a beautiful free kick strike before Ben Foster sealed it after sustained pressure from the men in black and white.
Easts couldn’t quite reach the heights they have the last couple of weeks.
“We didn’t play as well as what we can,” Easts coach Mark Gwynne said.
“In saying that, we had the better of the play for 35 minutes of the first half.
“We had a couple of chances but we couldn’t score.”
It was the story of their day.
“We had more chances than they did but we didn’t take them,” Gwynne said.
They probably didn’t have their usual punch up front though.
“They deserved to win,” Gwynne said.
“They played a bit better in the second half.
“In saying that, we’ve had a really good year.”
“We made the top four.”
He thought Toby Holmes was a standout at centre back for them.
Thompson was likewise for the victors.