Port United coach Nathan Wade will have some sleepless nights this week as he tries to come up with a gameplan to unsettle Coffs City United.
Many coaches in the Coastal Premier League have already tried different approaches with little success in the last 18 months.
Wade, however, knows it will be a delicate balancing act when he allows his side to push forward and when they should hold in defence.
“We’re trying to work out if we go full-out attack or try and defend a bit more and limit their goals,” he said.
“But the way they’ve been scoring goals all year … can you stop them or do you attack fully at the other end and hope to beat them in a high-scoring shootout.”
One thing is for certain – the Port Macquarie side must score goals.
“We’re going to have to score a couple, but by the same token we don’t want to be 3-0 down after 15 minutes,” Wade said.
The two teams played out a seven-goal thriller earlier in the season which will give Wade’s men some confidence they can find some chinks in the Lions’ armour.
“When they attack they attack in numbers, so once we do get the ball we’ve got to make sure we hold onto it and put pressure on their defence,” he said.
“It’s exciting. They’ve probably improved quite a bit from the first round but hopefully we’ve improved a little bit as well.”
Fourth-placed United are currently in a strong position to qualify for the top four CPL finals series, but they are focused on climbing higher to avoid a home-and-away leg against the Lions.
“You might fluke it and beat them in a grand final, but trying to beat them twice in three weeks will be difficult,” Wade said.
“Two wins would get us in the semis, but we’re trying to win all them … we’re not banking on two so a point would be nice on Saturday.”
While the Lions have secured the premiership, coach Glenn Williams said he would still field his strongest possible side for the trip to Port Macquarie.
“No-one’s given us an easy ride so we’re not going to do that for anyone else either. We definitely won’t be backing off,” Williams said.
“I had a look at the ladder during the week and Port United were third goal difference behind us so we know they can score goals. You like to play teams that are going to challenge and play the game like it should be.”
In other weekend matches, Northern Storm host Macleay Valley Rangers while Taree Wildcats travel to Ayrshire Park and a clash with Boambee.
Kempsey Saints tackle Coffs Tigers at Eden Street while Port Saints face Sawtell at Toormina Oval.