Two blues’ are intent on earning home final

PLAYING on home turf during the entire men’s Premier League Hockey finals series – that is a scenario Souths coach Ray Winwood-Smith would very much like to face.

However, in order to have that sort of advantage Souths needs to finish in the top two and to do that, the two blues must pull ahead of Lithgow Panthers.

It points to a hard-fought and exciting contest when the two meet at Bob Roach Field on Saturday afternoon.

“It’s probably our biggest game this year because effectively, with only three games to go, the winner of this is probably going to finish second,” Winwood-Smith said.

“Even though there is a chance in other games, I would argue Lithgow’s run home is a lot easier than ours, so it's shaping up to be a big game and an important game.

“That first 20 minutes of the first half is going to be absolutely hard and it will be what will set up the rest of the game. It will be an arm wrestle.

“I expect them to be at full strength, I hope to be at full strength and if we are, for me it is going to be a fantastic game for the boys to play.”

When Souths met Panthers earlier this season, the Lithgow side posted an 8-2 win.

However, since then Souths has made positional alterations and as last Saturday’s 8-1 win over Orange Wanderers demonstrates, the two blues are in form.

It’s probably our biggest game this year.

Ray Winwood-Smith

“The game last week was as good as we have played, especially in the second half. We didn’t play any different to what we did in the first half, but we were able to capitalise on a few things we’d been working on,” Winwood-Smith said.

“It showed that when we are in that style of play, we can be very, very dangerous.

“They got us in the first round and gave us a bit of a touch up, so we want to make amends for that and show we are serious about what we are trying to do.”

Winwood-Smith is anticipating Saturday’s match will be fast-paced with plenty of ball movement, with both sides enjoying attacking hockey.

With Panthers not only heading into the round 11 game with a four-point advantage, but a better goal differential (+29 opposed to Souths’ +16), every goal the two blues can score, and stop their rivals from scoring, may prove important.

“Lithgow typically play a style of game where they hold the ball up at the back and look for a long pass, a player up front,” Winwood-Smith said.

“They’ll stretch you and they try to get behind your defence very quickly, which is not dissimilar to what we do, it’s a very similar style we play. It’s always a good contest when we play.”

Souths will do battle with Panthers from 2.30pm at Bob Roach Field.

TIME TO STEP UP: If Souths wants to earn a major semi-final berth, beating Lithgow Panthers this Saturday is a must. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

TIME TO STEP UP: If Souths wants to earn a major semi-final berth, beating Lithgow Panthers this Saturday is a must. Photo: PHIL BLATCH