The Kempsey Saints earned an impressive 3-0 victory in their Premier League meeting with the Camden Haven Redbacks on the weekend to solidify their spot in the top five.
Saints’ destiny is now in their own hands as they need to only secure one win in their final three games to reach the finals series.
The side are locked into a three-way tussle with Taree and Camden Haven for the last two spots.
With the top three already decided it will be an interesting last few rounds to decide who gets to play the extra games in September.
With the Redbacks being one of the sides in a similar position on the ladder it was always going to be a close match.
Saints were without captain and midfielder Troy Ward and centre back Shae Baff. Selectors brought Lachy Jay back into the top grade and Jarrod Witheridge made a return to first grade after time away from the game last year and a disrupted pre-season due to injury.
Camden Haven showed the importance of the occasion with a flying start and pressed the Saints defence repeatedly in the opening stanza. Keeper Jacob Lyttle was tested early and that continued all match. A reshuffled backline playing a slightly different structure than previous weeks looked up to the task. Dan Baker in a new position of cover defender looked up for the game early.
He was involved in all aspects with his talk and dead ball plays. Saints, possibly against the run of play at the time, scored the first goal at the 25 minute mark after the Redbacks keeper spilt a shot from striker Adam Stutz.
Midfielder Tristan Smith had continued his run despite the ball looking covered by the keeper, Smith was rewarded for his hard work with the ball becoming available for a second shot.
The scoreboard was unchanged at half time and Saints were positive but realised that a more dominant half was needed to get the full points.
It was a better half for Saints, with improved second periods becoming a habit. The team worked hard for each other and took the game away from Camden Haven. The second goal came through the hard work of midfielder Jaime Wright, who had one of his best games of the season, after a run down the left and into the Redback box, cleverly committed the keeper to his run then crossed to an unmarked Dimik Pilbeam for a tap in. Saints sealed the game with super-sub Josh Hughes continuing his goal scoring in the top grade. Hughes held off a much larger Camden Haven centre back to go one-on-one with the keeper and a very clever finish. Final score was Saints 3-0 and much needed points. Best on the day was Witheridge; Baker and Wright. Top Pub Top Player was Wright.
Reserve Grade are sitting in the all-important top three but are a long way from securing the second chance semi spot and the next few weeks are important for them. They showed they have the ability to dominate games but unfortunately it only lasted for the first 70 minutes against the Redbacks. They looked like they were cruising home at 3-0 up with ten minutes to go but they dropped intensity and let the Redbacks back into the game with two late goals. The midfield of Angus Crotty, Tom Salter and Toby O’Brien had put in an honest effort to give the front four every opportunity to score. Saints had taken some chances and missed a few more. The whistle couldn’t come quick enough with Camden Haven well and truly on top in the closing stages of the game. Final Score, Saints 3-2. Top Pub Top Player was striker Liam King.
This weekend Saints take on namesakes Port Saints at the always difficult venue of Findlay Park. Both grades need full points again to strengthen their semi-final aspirations.
Also making news: