For 70 minutes of their major semi-final against Tamworth FC, East Armidale played with just 10 players.
In controversial circumstances, Jake Davies found himself sent from the field 20 minutes in and FC capitalised, taking a 5-1 win and the hosting rights for the grand final.
East Armidale coach Mark Gwynne admitted his team didn’t play to their potential but believes the “refereeing standard was just not good enough.”
“There were a few fouls early and they weren’t pulled up which is not acceptable but I think we could have played a lot smarter,” he said.
“It is still not good enough for that level of football.
“In saying that we didn't play smart enough either.
“We got sucked into their style of football. We are a lot better side than that.”
We are a lot better side than that.Mark Gwynne
Gwynne did credit FC’s defence against his young side.
“Their defensive structure through the middle of the park is what is winning them games,” he said.
“They are big slow players, instead of going around them we are trying to go through the middle.”
Despite the loss, Easts are still in with a shot at making the decider.
Their second-placed finish at the end of the Northern Inland Premier League season earns them another chance when they play Demon Knights in Armidale this Saturday in the preliminary final.