Staying calm and staring at sudden death - September 1 2012

Staying calm and staring at sudden death

Damen Francis

September 1 2012

Shepparton News

Cobram coach Luke Slater insists his side is relaxed, despite facing the prospect of being eliminated from the Regional Premier League finals race tonight.

The Tigers have not tasted victory since a 6-0 defeat of Tatura five weeks ago and a shock loss to Shepparton last week has put their premiership hopes on edge.

‘‘We’re not nervous, I think we feel that if we lost (tonight) it wouldn’t feel right,’’ Slater said.

‘‘The feeling is that our destiny, from the work we’ve put in this season, is to go further than this week and that makes us that much more determined.’’

As if the possibility of being knocked out of the competition in straight sets was not bad enough, the threat of doing so at the feet of bitter cross-town foe Cobram Victory makes it even worse.

A date with the loser of tomorrow’s grand final play-off between Shepparton United and Shepparton is the prize at stake.

In Cobram’s favour is the recent record between the two — it did the home-and-away double over the Victory this season.

Slater said as well as giving his side a certain degree of confidence, it made them ‘‘acutely aware of their strengths and weaknesses’’.

‘‘On the one hand we’ve beaten them twice and know we can beat them, but on the other they have massive motivation to turn it around,’’ he said.

‘‘They have got some major weapons in Billy Marshall, who has scored a lot of goals this season, Craig Carley, who has proven himself year after year and always seems to score against us, and Matt Gray, who has brilliant set-piece delivery. We believe as long as we do the basics well and eliminate any mistakes we will beat them.’’

Victory’s typical five-man midfield could cause problems against Cobram’s preferred 4-4-2 system, but Slater said he had no intention of altering a formation that had worked in the past.

The Victory enjoyed a morale-boosting win in last week’s elimination final , putting six goals past Hanwood.

However, scoring goals has not been a problem and coach Carley said eliminating mistakes at the back would be key against Cobram.

‘‘We always score against Cobram, so it’s a matter of stopping them,’’ Carley said.

‘‘Stuart Vance is massive for them, he’s probably the best header of the ball in the league and he’s a big aerial threat. Cobram has been top two all season and deservedly so, but they’re in a bit of a slump at the moment and knockout games have been our strength, so the pressure is on them.’’

Centre half Cameron Miles and midfielder Jamie England have made a welcome return to fitness in recent weeks and Carley has enjoyed the chance to pick the same starting XI in back-to-back matches for the first time this season.


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