HIGH-flying Sale will tomorrow night host a Bairnsdale keen to bounce back from two disappointing loses.
A 141-point thumping of Moe gave the Magpies top spot on the Gippsland League football ladder ahead of Morwell by just 0.17 of a per cent.
While the Magpies are beginning to get closer to its best line-up, coach Matt Ferguson, who missed the Moe match because of a hamstring injury, would have been pleased with the way the depth of the squad had handled the absence of key players.
The Magpies did all that was asked of them, showing little mercy for the more-inexperienced Moe line-up with Mitch Davis finishing off the fine work of the midfield, kicking 10 goals. As expected, the Sale defence was impassable.
Sale has won all four meetings with Bairnsdale, including thee by more than 100 points, since the Redlegs returned to this company in 2011. The Redlegs haven’t won at Sale since 1994, though a 12-year absence from this league partly explains that statistic.
The Magpies shouldn’t expect tomorrow night’s match to be one-way traffic with Bairnsdale having made big improvements this season.
While their start to the season was good, the Redlegs have had heavy loses to Morwell and Traralgon in recent weeks to move out of the top five.
Last weekend at home, Traralgon kicked out to a 21-point lead and gradually extended its lead. It was the second week in a row the Redlegs have begun slowly.
MAFFRA could slip to fifth place on the ladder with a loss at Traralgon tomorrow.
Following its big win at Bairnsdale, Traralgon took third place off the Eagles, who lost its second game at home this season against Morwell. A loss tomorrow and an expected win by Wonthaggi over Moe could see the Eagles continue their fall down the ladder.
With matches against Traralgon, Sale and Wonthaggi to come, we should get a good idea of how Maffra is travelling.
With tomorrow’s combatants sitting on three wins each, this match is the classic “eight-point game”. A Maroons victory would open up a two-win gap over the Eagles and keeping them in touch with ladder leaders Sale and Morwell.
Maffra was competitive against the undefeated Morwell last weekend, with a poor first term the difference.
The Eagles can’t afford to let Traralgon get a good start as it was able to do against Bairnsdale before building on that lead to win by 56 points.
Maffra found it hard at times to crack the Morwell defence, while the solid Tigers side didn’t allow the Eagles to play free-flowing football for long periods of time.
The Eagles played well when they ran with the ball, especially after a mark or free kick. This tactic could come in handy against the Maroons.
Lee Stockdale, who was named in the league team of the year last season, made a welcome to the Traralgon line-up against Bairnsdale, kicking four goals. Stockdale had not played since the pre-season.
Both sides have quality across the ground, pointing the way to what should be a tight match.
MORWELL would be favoured to continue its unbeaten start to the season at home against Drouin, who will put up a fight.
WONTHAGGI should be too strong at home for Moe.
WARRAGUL will host Leongatha.
For more read Friday’s Gippsland Times.