The first 24 rounds have been a joyride for St Albans Saints and the three other clubs in contention for the National Premier League 2 west title, but now it’s time to get down to business.
With four rounds to go, there is no margin for error for the Saints, who have a tentative grip on top spot on goal difference from Moreland Zebras.
Both the Saints and the Zebras have 45 points, with Werribee City (43 points) and North Geelong Warriors (41) continuing to snap at their heels.
Three different clubs have occupied top spot in the past five rounds – St Albans is trying to buck the trend of the short-stay leaders.
Saints coach Kruni Razov acknowledges his side is “the hunted”.
“We’re up for the challenge,” he said.
The Saints will be involved in inter-league action with eastern conference ladder-leader Eastern Lions at Churchill Reserve on Sunday in what could be one of the matches of the season.
A win for either team will see it move a step closer to their dream of featuring in Victorian football’s top flight in 2020.
“It’s top-versus-top,” Razov said. “It will be a great game.
“They’re flying at the moment, too – they’re almost promoted.
“Three points will go a long way towards what we want to do.”
St Albans will enter the game on the back of a 2-0 loss to FC Bulleen Lions at the Veneto Club last Monday night.
The Saints faded badly in the second half with their undermanned squad running out of energy towards the end.
St Albans played without one of its primary attacking weapons, Ayodeji Omoboye, but expect him to be fit for the clash with the
Midfielder Michael Grgic was also subbed off earlier than planned after entering the game under an injury cloud, but he also should be right with the extended time between matches.
With the league having a bye at the weekend, St Albans expects to get close to full fitness for the run home.
“Hopefully, with the weekend bye, we can get close to everyone available,” Razov said.
Winger Matthew Cundari, centre-back Jordan Wilkes and midfielder Dom Falla have been the standouts for St Albans in recent weeks.
Cundari has experienced a rollercoaster ride of a season, but he looms as one of the Saints’ match-winners down the stretch.
“He started the season really well and then went through a flat patch,” Razov said. “But he’s turned the corner.
“He’s quick, he’s explosive and he knows where the goals are when he’s on song.
“He’s found his rhythm again.”
St Albans will play three of its last four games at home.
The Saints have a loyal fan base that should only swell through word-of-mouth and the winning buzz in coming weeks.
“We’ve been good at home lately,” Razov said.
“We always look forward to playing in front of our supporters – and having three of our last four at home definitely helps.”
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