Veteran coach Lino Sciulli says collecting one more win on Saturday is imperative for Northern Rangers towards signalling the intention of the club to remain in next year’s NPL Tasmania competition.
Rangers are yet to take a stance amid the shake-up of the statewide league, moving from eight to 10 clubs under Football Federation’s plans.
But with several key players set to leave Tasmania at the end of the season, the Launceston club may elect to withdrawal from the NPL in favour of just two sides in the Northern Championships.
The three points at home to Kingborough Lions will ensure Rangers finish a credible sixth place this year, heading into the penultimate round of the season five points ahead of their rival.
“That can’t hurt on the scoreboard,” Sciulli said over hopes of earning a sixth win in the side’s 20 matches.
“The club will look at who we’ve got coming in and hopefully that we’re going in the right direction.
“It shouldn’t be hard, but the long season gets very difficult in the last rounds.
“We’ve had good numbers at training and we still have a really good feel around the club, so I don’t think that’s an issue with us staying.”
Sciulli urged his team this season to capitalise on the few real winnable games.
All 17 points bar five have come against lowly Kingborough Lions and Clarence United, with the exception of a shock win over current title chaser South Hobart and draws against Launceston City and Olympia Warriors.
“The wins against South Hobart – they’re just bonuses, but those teams that are around you on the ladder, if you’re not competitive against them, the chances of moving up are zero. The players have to look at these games as finals,” Sciulli said.
Launceston City host NPL leaders Devonport City in what weeks ago looked to be the match to decide this year’s premiership.
The Strikers are coming off a four-day break after a 4-1 FFA Cup loss to Avondale FC in another chance to take down the weary outfit twice.
“I don’t totally buy into that – they’ve just played at a higher level, so their intensity levels and concentration levels are extremely high at the moment,” Kenth said.
“So they’re focused – they might be only slightly tired, but they have played two very high level games this month.
“So they will be very match fit against us too.”
Kenth said City will be heading into the game somewhat underdone, unable to train on Tuesday night over unforeseen circumstances.
Victory is vital on Saturday for the visitors, who hold just a three-point advantage over South Hobart. But Kenth said to reduce the Strikers to a last-round battle of survival would be rich reward for his improved, new-look side.
“We still want to finish as high as possible – finishing top three will still be a good achievement for us, I feel,” Kenth said.
“So there is still a carrot at the end for us to win against Devonport.
“We’re safe for a top-four spot, so we’ve achieved what we wanted to achieve from the start of the season.
“But we came so close to the title, it hurts still.”