New-look local derby with extra motivation to lift
WITH so many new faces lining up in both teams, Friday night's annual local derby at Brassall will have a different flavour.
But judging by the pre-game sentiments, the clash between Ipswich City Bulls and Western Spirit still provides plenty of motivation.
Both Capital League 1 sides are battling to finish in the top six, meaning three points from a Sutton Park victory are crucial.
Bulls head coach Norbert Duga was keen for the usual strong supporter base to cheer on his team after some recent losses that have left the Bulls in 10th spot.
"This is the game of the season we all look forward to, especially on a Friday night,'' Duga said. "It's usually a cracker.
"We won't be doing anything different - night off tonight, hopefully nice and fresh tomorrow.''
Duga said facing a new-look Spirit combination didn't make the visitors any more or less dangerous than previous hotly anticipated derbies.
"I actually know very little about Spirit this year,'' the long-serving Ipswich football player and coach said
"They seem to be a bit hot and cold but definitely look tough to beat on their day.
"I am sure as usual they'll be up for this.''
While yet to experience a local derby atmosphere at Sutton Park, Western Spirit head coach Mario Malesevic was more focused on the important result than traditions.
"We'll come out like every other game, fight for the points,'' the first-year Spirit mentor said.
"I'm looking forward to it.''
With just four games remaining to make the top six, Spirit have the best prospects being in seventh.
Malesevic was monitoring a number of players, including goalkeeper Nikko Brown, who are dealing with injuries.
Spirit are coming off a 2-2 draw with Carina following a 2-1 victory over New Farm.
Malesevic was disappointed his team were unable to gain maximum points against Carina after controversial decisions regarding a penalty and off-side goal.
However, he's been encouraged by the recent goal-scoring form of strikers Micheal Giallourakis and David Rodriguez.
Duga meanwhile knows making the top six is a big ask.
"Mathematically we're still in the hunt but it's going to be awfully difficult now,'' he said.
"We need to win our last three games and then see where we end up.''
After looking good before the COVID-19 break, the Bulls were unable to kick on.
"We just didn't seem to close out a couple of results when we had chance to and then for whatever reason fell into a little mini slump,'' Duga said.
"Then we have also had a horrible run of injuries and players being unavailable this year. "After a good win against Virginia we had half the squad unavailable against Samford last week. It's very deflating but it is what it is.''
The Bulls lost that match 4-0.
"After missing a dozen players last week we get a few back for tomorrow but unfortunately we picked up more injuries last week with Nick Carson out, Brent Witney out and Jack Ryder in doubt,'' the coach said.
Carson is a big loss having scored a number of goals. He rolled his ankle early in last weekend's clash.
Carson will be on the sideline with other injured first-teamers Ronan Geoghegan, Zygan Condie, Thomas Sotiriadis and Joel Munn.
"I would like to say we've been able to field a full strength team this year, but we haven't,'' Duga said.
"Maybe the one positive out of all this is the opportunity for some of the younger players like Harrison Diehm and Quentin Dodd getting extended games and first team experience.''
The Bulls-Spirit duels are at 6.30pm (Reserves) and 8.30pm (main game) at Sutton Park on Friday night.