Top of the table clash as Rangers host United

Footwork: Macleay Valley Rangers player Sam Applegate challenges a Port United defender last season. Photo: Penny Tamblyn.
Footwork: Macleay Valley Rangers player Sam Applegate challenges a Port United defender last season. Photo: Penny Tamblyn.

The Macleay Valley Rangers are set to face their hardest test of the 2018 season when they host Port United in a top of the table clash this Saturday.

The two sides head into the contest undefeated, with the Rangers a perfect four wins from as many matches.

Port United played out a nil-all draw in their opening match of the season against the only other unbeaten team Wallis Lake, but have convincingly won their last three league games.

Macleay Valley coach Keith Morn admitted his side needs to maintain their composure for the full 90-minutes, if they’re to secure the three competition points.

United is always a good side and we have a bit of a rivalry with them so it’s important to get the win.

Keith Morn

“We have been good in the first halves of each game but we drop off in the second half and that’s happened every week,” Morn said.

“We need to take the same energy into the second half as we do the first to beat the best teams in the league.”

The flat second half performances could be blamed on the Rangers essentially locking up victories in the opening 45-minutes of each game they’ve played.

The side has been relentless in front of goal this season, scoring at an average of four goals per game, with the majority coming in the first half.

Meanwhile their defence has been even better, as they have conceded only four times this season.

With the game no longer in the balance, the Rangers have cruised late in games and Morn needs his side to maintain their momentum.

“Port United look like the team to beat this year,” Morn said.

“They have had success in the league and on the weekend they showed they can match it with the best sides of the surrounding leagues when they advanced in the FFA Cup.

“United is always a good side and we have a bit of a rivalry with them so it’s important to get the win."

Morn recognises Rangers’ weakness could play into the hands of their opponent.

“I have read they have been a good second half side this year and have lifted at the end to earn wins,” he said.

“We can’t afford to slacken off in that second half. We will need to play for the full 90-minutes.”

Port United have flexed their muscles in the second half of their most recent matches.

United overcame a 3-1 deficit in their FFA Cup match last Saturday to win 5-4 in extra-time before beat Armidale’s Demon Knights 2-0 on Sunday.

A week earlier, three second half goals saw United defeat Camden Haven 4-1.

The first grade match kicks off at Dangar St at 3pm.