Northern Premier League finals series
Saturday: Riverside Olympic v Devonport City at Windsor Park (2pm)
Sunday: Somerset v Northern Rangers at Cardigan Street (noon)
THE Northern Premier League finals series begins this weekend between the top four sides Somerset, Riverside Olympic, Devonport City and Northern Rangers.
Olympic is keen to prove it’s the best team in the league after remaining undefeated for the season but still losing the title to Somerset last week.
Coach Wayne Penfold said his players were determined to get something out of the year by winning the finals series, which starts on Saturday against Devonport City.
“Having gone through the season undefeated so far, we would like to continue in that vein and get some sort of reward for our hard work throughout the year.”
Penfold said the Strikers could field a strong side with several Victory League players eligible to drop back.
“It will be important to impose ourselves on Devonport early in the game,” he said.
“In our last contest we really took the game up to them in the first half and the match was pretty well done and dusted with a 6-0 score line at half time. I don’t expect the same score line this time around, so it will be important to get off to a good start once again to put the Strikers on the back foot.”
Jason Krushka is absent and will be replaced in the sticks by Mitch Jones while Mitchell Jones is yet to fully recover from a hamstring strain and Matt Chapman reinjured his hamstring last week.
But Penfold said the lack of matches in recent weeks could impact performance.
“We have been training to a high intensity to try and alleviate this, it is, however, difficult to train to the same intensity as a match.”
Devonport coach Mal Gorrie said injuries in the club’s Victory League side meant the NPL team would field a young squad, including Bill Meldrum, Liam Knott and Max Edwards from under-18s.
“Last time we played Riverside their first half was outstanding and we matched them in the second half,” Gorrie said. “If we can play our game early then it should be a close match.”
Northern Rangers finished fourth in the season and face champions Somerset at Cardigan Street on Sunday with nothing to lose according to coach Brendan Lichtendonk.
Lichtendonk said the Sharks were the benchmark in the North in front of goals, converting most of their chances.
“We will need to be solid at the back to repel their attacks, on the other hand, or conversion rate is poor, we will need to improve this on Sunday to have a chance, as Somerset won’t give us any presents at the back.
“We took a lot out of our performance against Riverside a couple of weeks back, and if we can carry that form into this game, then we are a real chance.”
Lichtendonk was also excited to have his best defensive line-up available with Stefan Hamilton, Adam McIntyre, Josh Burk and Daniel Sparshot all in the back line together for the first time this year.
The Sharks celebrated their NPL title last weekend but are ready to back up for the finals.
Coach Jeremy De Bomford has essentially the same squad with the exception of Garry Hamilton who is out and Dyson Buckingham who is uncertain to play.