Out-of-form Hoppers Crossing has a mountain to climb if it wants to be part of the Victorian Sub-District Cricket Association south-west finals.
Three losses in a row have seen the Cats tumble to sixth on the ladder and in need of a win in the last round to preserve their place in the finals.
The Cats need to beat premiership favourite Caulfield on its home track in a one-day game this Saturday to qualify.
Should the Cats fail to beat Caulfield, they will be at the mercy of four sides ready to pounce – Yarraville, Melton, Brighton and Elsternwick.
Cats player-coach Greg Kennedy admits the Caulfield challenge is great.
“We’ve left ourselves a monster of a task,” he said. “Going to Caulfield to take them on, needing to win on their deck, you’ve just got to play the best game we have all season.
“What better way to prepare yourself for finals if you’re good enough?”
Hoppers Crossing faces this predicament after falling short by 81 runs in its chase for Oakleigh’s 8-279 at Hogans Road Reserve. The Cats were made to rue their slow start, in which Jack Rhodes and Adrian Myers were dismissed for ducks and Cameron Nicol was gone soon after for 14.
At 3-34, Hoppers Crossing needed a big partnership, but Trent Said (29), Luke Goegan (15) and Nick Keast (42) departed when the Cats appeared to be gaining some momentum.
The killer was the run-out of top-scorer Keast. He was victim to a spectacular piece of fielding that Oakleigh fed off for the rest of the hot afternoon.
“That one was quite a momentum killer,” Kennedy said.
“We had made a nice rearguard action to that point, we got ourselves back with a stable base, but it happened just before the tea break.
“A brilliant bit of fielding, a one-handed pick-up and a direct hit from almost side on – it was a really good bit of fielding.
“It was a moment that we look back on as a key point in the day.”
Hoppers Crossing still had fight in it, which pleased Kennedy. Captain Justin Goegan (38) and Brett Smith (39) combined for a 65-run partnership to breathe life into the innings.
After Goegan was dismissed, Kennedy (11 no) remained optimistic he could build a strong partnership with Smith, but Smith was removed a short time later.
“When I went out there with Brett, it was not quite a run a ball and we thought we could do it, but we could never get going,” Kennedy said.
For all the losses that have piled up and the task that is in front of them, Hoppers Crossing still hold its destiny in its own hands.
“It’s cut-throat, time to perform,” Kennedy said. “The whole club is up and about after the twos, threes and fours qualified for finals.
“It will be an exciting week to be around the club.”
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