The Kempsey Saints will head into this Saturday’s local derby with the Macleay Valley Rangers with additional motivation.
While the Rangers have locked up second place on the ladder and won’t move regardless of the result, Saints are playing for their season and a home semi-final is also on the line.
The Saints will need to avoid a historic collapse, as an eight or more goal loss could result in them falling outside of the top five and out of the finals picture.
We need to create history and beat the Rangers on their home ground if we want to host a semi-final.Kempsey Saints coach Kevin Sinclair
However, a win would lock up a home semi-final in the first week of the finals against either the Taree Wildcats or Camden Haven Redbacks.
Saints’ task of earning a victory will be made easier with Rangers resting star striker Sam Applegate and left midfielder Kurt Riordan.
“They are both at risk of suffering a suspension if they get another yellow card,” Rangers coach Keith Morn told the Argus.
“Sam would miss one while Kurt would miss two games if they got one, so it isn’t worth the risk for us.”
Yellow cards are wiped at the beginning of the finals series.
Saints will have to defy history if they’re to pull off the win.
“We need to create history and beat the Rangers on their home ground if we want to host a semi-final,” Saints coach Kevin Sinclair said.
The Rangers will receive a boost though with centre midfielder Chris Walker returning from injury.
Walker has been a standout player for Macleay Valley this season and was selected in the Northern Representative side to face off with the Newcastle Jets last month.
Morn admits it will be hard for his side to find motivation for this Saturday’s game when their semi-final with Port United the following week is a certainty.
However, Morn believes his side has begun to recapture the mojo which saw it lead the competition for the first half of the season.
“I noticed us start to drop off about halfway through the season, you could see it at training, in warm ups and in games,” Morn said.
“The game against Port United was a bit of a wake up call and last week we were back to our best despite losing to Wallis Lake.
“The intensity has been back at training and hopefully we can take that into the finals.”
The match kicks off at 3pm on Saturday, with reserve grade starting at 1.15pm.
It’s an important match in reserve grade with the two sides equal on competition points but with Rangers ahead in third due to a greater goal difference.