Pat’s are stalking Panthers

Nanjing Night Net

WITH Bathurst rivals Souths hot on their tails, defending men’s Premier League Hockey champions St Pat’s face a daunting task today if they wish to earn a second chance come the 2013 finals series.

They must beat a Lithgow Panthers outfit that sewed up the minor premiership well before today’s final round and they must do so at Lithgow.

Currently Pat’s and Souths both sit on 38 points, but due to a far superior for and against, Pat’s need only win to secure second spot.

Souths, on the other hand, need to defeat cellar-dwellers Orange Wanderers and rely on the Panthers beating Pat’s to leapfrog their Bathurst counterparts into second.

According to St Pat’s goalkeeper Daniel Casey, securing second place is definitely a motivator, but he added the Saints are also prepared for a daunting do-or-die week one finals clash with Parkes United should they lose today.

“Of course we’d love to finish second, you get two bites at the cherry,” he said.

“But if we are to lose, it’s not the end of the world. We’d probably need to beat all those teams [Souths, Panthers and Parkes] to win the grand final anyway.

“We’re going in assuming Souths will get the win in Orange, so if we finish third, so be it.”

Casey said confidence remained high despite the prospect of dropping to third, with NSW Country players Shane Conroy, Jayden Ekert and Luke Thorncraft, along with ex-Kookaburra Matt Naylor returning for the must win clash.

“Having all the Country boys come back, and Matty too is huge,” he said.

“It’ll make a big difference for us, especially confidence wise as a team.

“These boys are coming off a pretty good tournament, I think Jayden scored a few goals so their confidence will be high and that should rub off on us.”

Pat’s custodian said his team were prepared for what Panthers will bring given the fiery nature of the two sides previous encounters.

“There’s no love lost,” Casey said.

“There is a definite mutual respect though, we know if we’re off our game they’ll do us and vice versa. There isn’t much between the two teams, they know that as well.

“I think it’ll just come down to who plays better hockey on the day.”

Casey said having a full strength team on the field was not only huge for Pat’s today, but would be vital in the coming weeks as well.

“Getting through the game with no injuries is a major thing for us,” he said.

“Winning is important, but whether we finish second or third, putting our strongest team on the field in the finals is vital.

“We’ll go in confident.”

St Pat’s host Lithgow Panthers at Bob Roach Field from 1.50pm today.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: St Pat’s Darcy Davis pressures Lithgow Zig Zag rival Matt Winterbottom in Lithgow last Saturday. The Saints will make the trek to Lithgow again today for their final round clash with Panthers. Photo: JEFF GEDDES pats2

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