Port United couldn’t have started the season in worse fashion than when they lost their first three games of the 2021 Coastal Premier League reserve grade competition.
Since then, they have only lost one game – to ladder-leaders Coffs City United – to arguably be the form team of the competition as it approaches the finals.
First grade coach Nathan Wade trains both his top side and their reserve graders as combined sessions to give a holistic approach to the club.
It seems to have worked.
“It’s good to see because we blooded a lot of our juniors this year in reserve grade,” he said.
“We got the old guys to step down a grade (into the Football Mid North Coast men’s northern league) which was a bit of a risk but it’s starting to pay off now.
“Our reserve grade has always been a strong side and they also won the grand final last year in the southern grand final against Port Saints.”
A 3-2 loss to Coffs City United Lions back on May 29 is their only slip-up since round three and they will no doubt have gained confidence from a 1-all draw with the minor premiers on August 7.
“They’re a young side with a lot of new faces at the start which took a bit to gel, but they’re going along nicely and before the stoppage I thought both our sides were timing their run well into the semis,” Wade said.
“We’ll see what happens now.”
Cross-town rivals Port Saints have quietly gone about their business and while their first-grade side has struggled for consistency their “ressies” have climbed into third spot.
A 4-3 defeat to Port United on July 7 could come back to cost them a top two berth although they have registered wins over United and Northern Storm throughout the season.
First grade coach John Goodman has managed to keep an eye on his reserve grade teams and said a finals berth was what they had aimed for at the start of the year.
“For us it was trying to be in the mix for the semis. That’s what we wanted to do and we proved that. Some weeks we played great and other weeks we dogged it out and got a win,” he said.
“Overall I’m proud of how they’ve gone.”
Goodman also admitted a strong amount of depth had contributed to their successful season.
“This is the first time we’ve had depth further than just first grade. We’ve got proper depth,” he said.
“We’ve got half a dozen players who could easily play first grade and that makes it stronger.”