Former coach a danger for ATW
By Vince Habermann
FORMER Across The Waves player/coach Robert Thatcher will be a thorn in their side when he lines up for Bingera in the Archem Premier League qualifying final at Martens Oval tomorrow night.
Thatcher played like a man possessed when the Superstripes beat league champions Waves 4-2 in the penultimate round a fortnight ago.
But club president Peter Martin, who also took the coaching reins from him at the start of this season, is confident they can gain direct passage to the grand final after bouncing back with a 3-1 win against North Bundaberg last week.
"I was reasonably happy with the effort against Eagles (North). We could have probably played a bit better possession-wise, but we certainly did enough to beat them,'' Martin said.
"As long as we do the little things right, we will beat Bingera, no worries about it.
"We're looking all right. I still don't know about Rod Cooper, but I'm hoping he's right, but either way, we're all ready to go. The boys are all in a good mood and have trained hard without me putting too much pressure on them.
"The good thing about playing Bingera is that both sets of players get on real well, but I think we can beat them out wide and coming through the middle up front. I think they are a bit weaker on the flanks and we can exploit that.''
Another epic duel is expected in the elimination final where Diggers will suit up against North.
There has been very little between the two all year, but while North prevailed 2-nil when they last met three weeks ago, Diggers coach Lynn Hodgkinson is confident they will acquit themselves well.
"I think any of the four teams can win the grand final, but I don't take too much from lossing to them a couple of weeks ago,'' Hodgkinson said. "We had a bit of a let-down, coming off a string of very tough games, and the players were just not focused enough. "North are a very difficult side to play against and we know the difficulty of the task ahead of us.''
Hodgkinson said defender Nathan Darlington was probably out for the rest of the season with an achilles injury, but they should otherwise be full strength, and had trained "really well''.
But he expects a close match.
"I'm confident we will play well but as to the result, it just depends on what happens on the day. Finals are a different kettle of fish, and often times, teams will lift to another level in a final,'' Hodgkinson said.
"The style that North play is a key. They tend to play over the midfield and get the ball quickly to the players up front, and it's something that we have to be aware of, but the key for us is taking our chances. All year we have created chances, but our conversion rate hasn't been good enough.''
In second division, league champions Bingera and Waves will also meet in the qualifier, with Diggers taking on Brothers-Aston Villa in the elimination game.