Regional soccer titans collide

By Alex Mitchell

A spot in the Bendigo Amateur Soccer League finals could be on the line when two of the region’s soccer titans collide at Howley Oval tomorrow.

Shepparton South is fourth on the ladder, but right on its tail is Tatura, a single point behind in fifth and looking to break into the finals picture.

And both sides were up for the contest, embracing the massive rivalry between the clubs.

‘‘It’s a very big game, there is a rivalry there and I said to the boys that we shouldn’t shy away from that,’’ South coach Gino Saracino said.

‘‘Both clubs have been successful in the last 10 seasons with premierships, so we need to enjoy the moment and the opportunity.

‘‘It’s another opportunity for us to cement a spot in the four.’’

Tatura coach and former South premiership star Sean Grant agreed there was no love lost between the clubs.

‘‘South is always up there challenging for finals and they’re one team that produces week in, week out,’’ he said.

‘‘For a lot of our boys it’s a massive derby, it’s pretty much a grand final when this game is on.

‘‘It’s another rivalry game and we’re looking forward to getting out there and trying to do the double over South.’’

Grant needed no reminding of his side’s powerful round one triumph, a 4-1 dismantling of the Southerners at McEwen Reserve.

But while they looked the goods early, the Ibises have fallen back to the pack in an inconsistent season, and are looking to the back-half of their season to move up the table.

‘‘Our form has picked up and the big positive is having a full side, and putting that on the park for more than two games in a row,’’ Grant said.

‘‘Our main concern is we’re still conceding some silly goals and silly free kicks. We need to stamp that out, but other than that our form and approach is improving a lot.’’

For South, it will be looking to continue strong form, particularly at the back, where it has not conceded a goal in two games.

‘‘You can’t lose if your opponent doesn’t score, that’s the first thing you need to take care of,’’ Saracino said.

‘‘The back four hasn’t changed, they’re set up pretty well and it’s just organisation and communication, they’re big things for me.

‘‘If you communicate well between the lines you’re harder to break down and that’s what we’ve been able to do for the last 180 minutes.’’

Grant pointed to solid defender Jarrod Backway as a standout this season, along with Thomas Leech and Lewis Coyle, who have scored 15 goals between them.