NAMBUCCA Strikers eked out a valuable 2-1 win over Bellingen at Coronation Park this afternoon in an absorbing, spirited, tit-for-tat North Coast Football men's second division tussle.
At home with a weak breeze at their backs, the Strikers and the highly rated Bello side pushed, probed and tested one another out through the opening exchanges, with neither side having genuine opportunity.
The chess game was broken in the 18th minute when Nambucca took a sharp corner which brought a Bellingen own goal.
The men in white and black were stung, not downcast, and after dominating possession levelled three minutes from the break when awarded a penalty from the spot.
Ex-Macksville Stingers keeper Corey Forbes moved the right way - "did you see, I slipped?" - but the Bellingen strike was too good.
Nambucca coach Grant Martin must have said the sharp things at halftime, as two minutes into the resumption a long through ball found another former Stinger in Braydon Melouney who parried it left to a rampant Ethan Hocking who buried it to set up the final scoreline.
Bellingen lifted again and had numerous all-buts on the Strikers' goal.
Then it was Nambucca's turn to rise - enjoying five consecutive corners as they camped on the Bellingen line like ardent Victorian grey nomads swirling just south of the Queensland border.
The contest ran to the final whistle in an epic wrestle between two teams set to figure in finals.
For Nambucca, Ethan Hocking, Rick Welsh and Corey Forbes were standouts, while Grant Martin as he does, threw his frame around the middle of the park with little regard for self preservation, or that of others.
Travis Hayden was Gandalf like at the back - as the Red Wizard declared no one shall pass, and Brandan Gregory needed no encouragement to crank up the volume.
Coach Grant would have been well chuffed with the effort and morphed from barking drill sergeant on the sideline to gentle accountant in a millisecond as he quietly observed: "Different team to last year - younger, faster".
And that with a handy addition to add to the fold as Kai Allan watched proceedings from the sideline with foot in moonboot - and is "two to four weeks" from a return to the frenzy.