Panthers forced premier league front-runners Bathurst Souths to chase points when the Bathurst outfit travelled to Lithgow on Saturday for a top-of-the-table clash.
A powerful start from the Lithgow underdogs saw Souths behind 2-0.
Unfortunately, Souths pushed back to a 3-3 finish, putting them in favor as hosts of the premier league’s major semi-finals, where Panthers are guaranteed to replay the Bathurst outfit.
Panthers player-coach Trent MacDonald said his team played well overall.
“We dominated them for the first twenty minutes. When we came out for the second half we played well again,” he said.
“The last twenty minutes we let them have a big percentage of the ball time. Which led them to score with seven minutes to go.”
MacDonald said he was “confident but not cocky” about his team’s chances in the semis.
“The semi-finals we know we are going to be in for a fight,” he said.
“Just the way we’ve been playing, with the younger guys really standing up, plus we should have the two players out at Country’s last week and hopefully Brandon Horner, they’ll help us out a lot.”
It was through a Brandon Horner short corner Panthers quickly found themselves leading Saturday’s game 1-0.
The Lithgow men’s intensity caught Souths off guard; Tom Luchetti slotting in a field goal soon after.
“Brandon Horner had to go after twenty minutes to play in Sydney, that hurt us a bit,” MacDonald said.
Souths soon found their structure and levelled through a pair of goals from Nic McEwen.
Panthers, however, never allowed Souths to get a roll on at any stage of the game and the Lithgow men regained their lead early on in the new term through Jake Lewis.
Souths converted a short corner with seven minutes to go, after a collection of unsuccessful attempts, equalising with the Panthers.
Lithgow has a bye for the final round, leaving the location of the semis in Souths’ hands.
“We sort of need Orange to beat them for us,” MacDonald said.
“If not, at least we’re in the top two so we will get that second bite... We’re quite happy to play at Bathurst.”
Panthers are guaranteed to meet Souths again in just a fortnight’s time for the major semi-final.