Old Boys and Thistle earned the right to play in next week's Southland Football Charity Cup final when they won their respective semifinals on Saturday.
At the ILT Turf Old Boys claimed their spot with a thrilling 5-4 win over Southend United while in a contrasting affair at O'Rorke Park near Invercargill, Thistle won through with a 1-0 win over Gore Wanderers combined Division One team.
Both Old Boys and Southend United were missing some key players for their game but still managed to turn on an epic clash as the score swung back and forward keeping the decent sized crowd well entertained.
It was Southend who struck first blood when veteran player-coach Iain Walker netted with a strong shot to give them an unexpected 1-0 lead.
Southend then had the misfortune to concede an own-goal which let Old Boys back into the game at 1-1.
Kurt Knarston regained the lead at 2-1 for Southend United with a well taken goal before the game changed dramatically.
First, Atain Halley with a penalty then goals from Callum Smith and Jack Boland looked to have put the game beyond doubt for Old Boys with their 4-2 lead.
There was no more scoring before the halftime break and with six goals already notched up spectators were wondering just what the final score might be.
They didn't have to wait long. An Old Boys own-goal reduced the margin to 4-3 and handed Southend a lifeline back into the game.
Both defences were at their best by now with Hamish Low and Jacob Grant having outstanding games for Old Boys as were Dave Donegan, Steve MacDonald and Reon Calder for Southend United.
Normally a striker MacDonaldwas slotted into a fullback role by coach Walker to combat the pace of Old Boys winger David Mwangi in a move that proved to be very effective.
Southend United broke down the Old Boys back line and after a weaving run Kyle Schins stroked the ball under the Old Boys keeper to tie the game up at 4-all.
With fulltime approaching and extra time seeming to be the most likely outcome Southend United conceded a free-kick outside the penalty box and up stepped Old Boys' leading goalscorer Callum Smith to strike the ball into the far corner of the Southend net for his second, Old Boys' fifth and the game winning goal.
It was elation for Old Boys who are now very warm favourites to lift another important trophy for the season and disappointment for Southend United who battled bravely against the odds on a day that wasn't to be theirs.
At O'Rorke Park Thistle made their play for the trophy under new senior coach Dave MacDonald against the Gore Division One combined team.
The game was always even but never reached any great heights as both teams struggled to get out of the midfield area of the ground.
Both goalkeepers had little to do in the first half with perhaps the Thistle keeper being called on more often.
The halftime 0-0 score reflected the play.
The second half was much the same with Thistle needing a late goal from Ali Smith to repel the Gore visitors and secure their place in the Grand Final.
In the Edinburgh Trophy semi finals Old Boys Division One accounted for Old Boys Division Two 7-2 while Thistle eliminated Gore Wanderers 3-2 with the winning goal coming in extra time.
Both the Charity and Edinburgh finals will be fought out between teams from the Old Boys and Thistle clubs next Saturday at the Football Turf.
- The Southland Times