Port United took 13 points from a possible 15 at the start of their 2021 Coastal Premier League campaign to sit on top of the ladder in mid-May.
But since a 1-0 win over Sawtell on May 15, the wheels have wobbled on United’s season with Nathan Wade’s side taking just seven points from a possible 21 on offer which has seen them slip from first to sixth.
They have two games in hand, but a loss to the Scorpions on Saturday at Toormina Oval could see real doubts about their premiership credentials start to creep in.
Wade knows they have approached the crossroads with six games to play before the finals.
“Games in hand only mean something if you win them so we could win them and move to second, or lose them and still be sixth,” he said.
“It’s a tight competition.”
United will look at the fixture as one they should win although the Scorpions will fancy their chances of causing an upset despite occupying the bottom rung of the ladder.
“Some of the sides are probably looking at us and saying they should beat us based on ladder position, but we’d be favourites although that doesn’t mean anything when it’s 11 vs 11 out there,” Wade said.
Sawtell coach Joe Skrtic was surprised at how the Port Macquarie side’s fortunes had turned around so dramatically.
He still rates them, but would be confident his side had found a few defensive frailties in their last encounter when they went down 1-0.
They will look to expose them.
“We know that we can cause them problems at the back and if we play our combinations well in the final third I’m sure we will put the ball in the back of the net,” Skrtic said.
The Scorpions are four points behind second-last placed Taree and Skrtic admitted he was trying not to place too much of an emphasis on not finishing last.
The key was enjoyment and the result would look after itself.
“What I’ve said to the boys is we need to get some points, but I still want them to be positive,” he said.
“I try not to stress it out too much that we are at the bottom of the table. I just want them to enjoy their football and hopefully they’ll bring out their best game coming to the weekend.”
In other weekend matches, Port Saints face a must-win clash with Northern Storm where anything less than three points will all-but end their season.
Kempsey Saints tackle the much-improved Taree Wildcats at Eden Street while Coffs Coast Tigers take on Macleay Valley at Polwarth Drive.
The top two sides battle it out at Ayrshire Park on Sunday when Boambee will look to end Coffs City United’s 10-game unbeaten streak.