SOUTHS needed to fight hard to secure a 3-all in their top-of-the-table clash with Lithgow Panthers during men’s Premier League Hockey action on Saturday.
The two blues were never in front at any stage during the gritty contest at Lithgow, where physical hockey prevailed over the clinical variety.
At one stage Souths were down 2-0 but levelled the scores up at half-time through Nic McEwen’s two goals.
Souths once again snuffed out a Lithgow lead with a crucial Dan Carter penalty goal midway through the second term.
“It was a bit of an arm wrestle. Panthers, as they often do, got away to a good start. We settled and then started to play the way that we wanted to play,” Souths coach Ray Winwood-Smith said.
“At 3-all no-one was really giving too much away. I wouldn’t say that it was a high quality game but definitely a very tough game.”
Panthers found themselves up 2-0 quickly as their intensity caught Souths off guard.
Souths found their structure and brought the game back to the tempo they wanted.
That allowed the visitors to level through a pair of McEwen goals.
Panthers never allowed Souths to get a roll on at any stage of the game and when the hosts struck the first blow in the new term it was going to take a big two blues effort to bring the match back under control.
They found that through a Carter strike on a short corner.
Souths had enjoyed a big share of the short corners – taking seven in total – but could only convert on a single attempt.
“We were making a lot of simple, unforced errors,” Winwood-Smith said.
“There was a lot on the table for this game so both teams went in not wanting to make a mistake, always trying to attack.
“I wasn’t disappointed with the result but I was disappointed with the way that we played in patches. We weren’t able to capitalise on the opportunities we were given.
“Our short corner conversions were poor and that’s normally one of our strengths and we didn’t capitalise in that area.”
Panthers have the bye for the final round which means Souths’ destiny is entirely in their hands.
The draw almost certainly secures Souths the minor premiership.
Souths would need to lose by six goals or more in their final round meeting with Orange Wanderers this Saturday to give up semi-final hosting rights.
The Bathurst men and Panthers are guaranteed to meet again in just a fortnight’s time for the major semi-final.