St Pat’s will again meet Lithgow Panthers in a grand final qualifier

FOR the third time in four years, St Pat’s will do battle with Lithgow Panthers to decide who will host the men’s Premier League Hockey grand final.

FAMILIAR FOES: Luke Thorncraft and his fellow Saints will meet Lithgow Panthers in this Saturday's grand final qualifier. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

FAMILIAR FOES: Luke Thorncraft and his fellow Saints will meet Lithgow Panthers in this Saturday's grand final qualifier. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

Saturday’s major semi-final at Bob Roach Field will see the minor premiership winning Saints hosts defending champions Lithgow Panthers.

Though the pair did not meet during last year’s finals series, the corresponding game in both 2015 (6-2) and 2014 (2-1) saw the Saints get the better of Panthers.

It was in 2012 (3-0) that Panthers last beat the blue and whites in a major semi-final.

Plenty of players from those three encounters will line up again on Saturday, but Saints coach Shane Conroy points out that his squad includes those yet to meet Panthers in a final.

“We do have a lot of younger guys and this will be a new challenge for them, the team is a lot different to the one we had last year,” he said.

“It means us experienced players have got to take control and tell those other guys that it’s just another game. Lithgow have all been playing together for a lot of years, but for us it is a bit of an unknown.

“But even in the big local derby games and the other games we’ve played against Panthers, they’ve not been over-awed by the situation. They’ve just got to take the same mentality into this game.”

Pat’s has beaten Panthers twice already this season, but the 2-1 victory in round two and 5-4 result in round nine were hard earned.

Conroy feels there is very little between the pair and once more stated his belief that taking whatever chances are presented will be crucial.

“Last time we played them I spoke about taking opportunities, it will come down to whoever in front of goal can take their opportunities,” he said.

“I do believe that the amount of circle penetrations will be even and most the the other statistics will be as well.”

While the Saints will be without Jaden Ekert, who is away with the New South Wales Country outfit, that same representative team includes Panthers’ Nic Milne.

Pat’s will also have experienced defender Tobbie Muldoon back on deck. He made his return from injury against Orange Wanderers last Saturday, a match the Saints won 7-1 to wrap up a home semi-final.

Conroy does not necessarily think playing a Bob Roach Field is an advantage for his team, but likewise he is happy not to be facing Panthers on their turf.

“If you look at the history, I think teams playing away have probably won more than the team at home, but it’s a good feeling not to have to travel to travel,” Conroy said.

St Pat’s and Lithgow Panthers will do battle from 2.30pm on Saturday at Bob Roach Field.

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