ARMIDALE City will be out to extinguish Kiwi Diggers’ Northern Hockey Premier League title hopes just as Kiwis did to it last year when it hosts the Tamworth side in the final today.
Last year Kiwis scored with only seconds remaining of their minor semi-final to force extra-time and then struck four minutes into golden-goal extra time to snatch a 5-4 win and end City’s season.
This year the NHPL has taken on a bit of a different format.
Rather than run through the whole season, it only kicked in halfway through the season and effectively concurrently to the two local competitions.
City won the hosting rights for the final by finishing on top but there has been nothing to separate it and Kiwis.
Both their games ended in draws – the first after lightning ended the game early.
City coach Blair Chalmers said one of the keys for them would be how their strikers move in the circle.
“Kiwis are a great defensive side,” Chalmers said.
“I noticed last time we played them they covered the hot line (line from ball to goal) pretty well with quite a number of bodies there.”
“What we need to do is draw them out of the circle.
“Our striker movement needs to be lateral.”
They won’t be at full strength, with Sam Constance and Dean Waters unavailable.
One of the Kiwi dangers is Mitch Burrows.
He’s cruelled Armidale City a few times.
Another is Antony Doolan. He didn’t play the last time the sides met and will make a big difference.
“He’s a big component to their side,” Chalmers said.
“He’ll be a focal point of their outletting.”
“We need to put a lot of reverse pressure on him from our strikers.”
Kiwis coach Greg Doolan felt Doolan would be a big in for them.
“Ant coming back in means we can push a bit more strikepower forward,” Doolan said.
He is quietly confident and felt a lot would hinge on how they can involve their midfield.
“We’ve got to maintain possession and try to build through our midfield,” he said.
“Our strength is our midfield. We’ve got to use it.”
They’ve also got to limit their mistakes and turnovers and try to avoid City putting pressure on them.
It is a little bit of an unknown for him. He’s only seen the game down in Tamworth.
“When we played them down here we had enough opportunities to win the match,” he said.
They just couldn’t convert them.
Doolan will have a busy weekend.
His Waratahs women’s side is playing in the major semi-final against Olympians tomorrow.
They’ll meet at 3pm following the minor semi-final between Services and Flames at 1pm.
Tamworth High’s boys will join their girls at the State Hockey Knockout finals after trouncing Blackwattle Bay 20-nil yesterday.
The Greg Allen side led 10-nil at half-time and doubled its advantage in the second half.
The side now heads to Lithgow in a couple of weeks.