THE minor premiers going up against a bottom-placed side who have just nine players? Should be one-way traffic, right?
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Saturday's men's Central West Premier League Hockey game between St Pat's and Wanderers was anything but that.
Despite what the 4-0 scoreline to St Pat's may tell you, as a resilient Wanderers side made the Saints earn their points as they kept the game scoreless all the way up to the half-time break.
Wanderers goalkeeper Andrew Kelly may have even upstaged the Saints' hat trick man Riley Hanrahan with his high workrate protecting a clean sheet for the opening half.
It wasn't until Shane Conroy broke the deadlock midway through the third quarter with a rare goal that the Saints started to find their groove.
Wanderers had a couple of circle penetrations either side of the last break, but there were no clear cut chances for the Orange men.
Hanrahan then went on a tear, beginning with his excellent deflection into the top of the net off a Lachlan Howard cross to put the Saints up 2-0 at three quarter time.
He found goal number two from the penalty corner with 10 minutes remaining and then successfully converted a penalty stroke opportunity that came after an Orange foot stopped a would-be goal.
Saints captain Hanrahan praised Wanderers for the effort they showed with just nine men available.
"They were really good in defence. I took us a whole half of the game to break them down. They just really congested the middle and we probably lacked a little bit in the circle. We were a bit lethargic there," he said.
"We eventually turned it on and we were able to get some goals there but Andrew Kelly was amazing for them. He held us out for while.
"I thought Shane Conroy was a standout for us today. When he got that first goal you could probably hear the collective sigh of relief that came from the crowd.
"Lately it's been a real squad effort. We've had a couple of the younger boys come into the team, and some of them are out there probably playing up to three quarters of this game."
The victory was a crucial one for the Saints as it officially gets them through to the grand final with one round of the regular season still to play.
The Saints went into Saturday's game eight points clear of the Lithgow Storm, meaning a win or draw would be good enough to get the job done.
In the day's other game the Storm proved too good for Parkes United in a 4-1 result.
Pat's will be welcoming back Andre Rossitt and Tyler Willott from representative duties when they face the Storm next round.
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