Orange Wanderers picked up their second win for the 2019 Premier League Hockey men's season on Saturday in Lithgow, and with it - incredibly, incredulously - a ticket to the grand final.
After a blistering, golden goal debut win in Parkes in the elimination semi-final of the four-team men's competition, they backed up in Lithgow against Panthers with a 2-nil win to throw themselves into the big dance in a result which everyone outside the Wanderers' set-up would have considered impossible six weeks ago.
We were always going into that match looking to win, we were feeling pretty confident.Wanderers coach Mark Pengilly
Despite the somewhat comfortable end scoreline, Wanderers coach Mark Pengilly said the win was anything but easy, with Panthers "throwing everything at us in the first quarter" and
The hosts had several shots on goal, all deflected by a brilliant performance in goals by Jake Skelton, who had several phenomenal saves.
Skelton saved Wanderers' bacon countless times during the match, and Pengilly said the goalkeeper played out of his skin, while the defenders around him - including the likes of Logan Dolbel, Henry Jones and Brad Pengilly - also drew the coach's praise.
"Those guys kept it out and kept applying pressure, and Panthers kept turning the ball over," he said.
After a first-quarter onslaught, the game set back to level pegging and Wanderers were able to get forward, but the visitors didn't open accounts on the scoreboard until the second half when Bailey Ferguson latched onto an errant Panthers ball and won a one-on-one with the Lithgow keeper, scooping it over his head.
With eight minutes to go in the last, Wanderers put it beyond doubt after Adam Skelton "tomahawked" a contested ball in the circle into the back of the net to seal a euphoric victory for the Orange side.
"It was pretty awesome," Pengilly admitted of the feeling after the game.
"We were always going into that match looking to win, we were feeling pretty confident."
"We're pretty happy, it's a really good feeling to be in a grand final and especially on in Orange."
They're the first Orange-based men's side in a Premier League Hockey grand final since 2000, and the city itself will be hosting the grand final for the first time ever after CYMS won the rights a fortnight ago.
The Wanderers side made it through the clash mostly unscathed, except for a badly rolled ankle to Michael Pengilly which he was getting checked on Sunday - although early signs indicated he should be right to play.
Wanderers will line up against Bathurst St Pat's for the chance to claim a fairy-tale championship win.
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