The Warkworth Men’s First football team has set up a series of ‘must win’ matches after poor form has left it looking at the possibility of league relegation.
The side has taken just one win in nine matches in the Northern Football Federation Men’s Competition, stranding them at the bottom of the 10-team table.
Team manager Cam Gray says the situation is putting pressure on his side.
“I think we are going to get into panic mode soon, and our biggest battle will be a mental one,” Cam says.
“We may have to play ugly football if it means we can grind out a few wins by just playing a deep defensive structure.”
Cam says the team does not want to drop into the lower league as the standard of competition would diminish and travel time would increase.
However, he identified one positive – that the less intense environment would give some younger players the opportunity to play First team football.
He says a large part of the problem is still the season-long issue of confidence and execution.
“In the close games we’ve lost, we haven’t had the confidence to take our opportunities and retain possession.
“In the blowouts, we have just capitulated after conceding early goals and that’s an attitude problem, which isn’t good enough.”
Another focus for the team is the transition between defence and attack.
“We have been able to defend for long periods, but we need to hold possession when we switch to offence.”
Squad changes may also cause difficulty as the season continues, with Mats Beckmann, Matthew Taylor, Lee Draper and Gareth Southcombe all set to leave for various reasons.
“I will have to pull a number of players from our reserves squad, but a few of them already have First team experience.”
Warkworth Men’s Reserves team manager Ross Millar says this would pose a problem, but his side is required to support the First team.
“We move leagues when the First team does, so their performance is in our best interests, too,” Ross says.
The Reserves team has won five of its 10 matches and is sitting firmly in a mid-table position.
Ross says they would need a miracle to win the league, but that second place is well within their reach.
“We are playing some of our best football and have taken out some of the bigger players in the competition,” Ross says.
He praises the team’s defensive capabilities since the structure was changed to incorporate a sweeper.
“Our backs are proving very strong, but it would be nice to score a few more goals, so our attacking structure is something we are working on.”
He says any finish inside the top four will be a triumph after a sixth place finish last season.
The men’s First team is still contesting the Federation One Cup, with a quarter-final fixture against North Shore Seagulls at Shoesmith Domain, July 8, 2.45pm kick-off.