Western Pride stand-in captain Cam Crestani.
Western Pride stand-in captain Cam Crestani. Chris Simpson

Football critics motivate Ipswich team

FOOTBALL: Having grown up in Stanthorpe, stand-in Western Pride captain Cam Crestani is used to chilly conditions.

He experienced the "perfect'' three degree temperature during a quick trip to the town on Wednesday.

However, Crestani is keen to answer the frosty attitude some rival National Premier League clubs are displaying this season.

With Pride leading the competition until last weekend's 3-1 loss to Brisbane City, Crestani was disappointed how the defending state league grand final champions were being perceived.

He welcomes a battle between second-placed Pride and the team below them on the NPL ladder at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex on Saturday night.

"Strikers has probably come at a good time for us,'' Crestani said, having played in all 12 matches for Pride this season.

"It will test us as a group.

"The vibe around the team hasn't really changed.

"There's stuff being said about us in the media, etc from other teams and everything . . . but we just want to go out there and prove a point that nothing changes and we are working as hard as we ever have on a training pitch.''

Crestani said the critics were still struggling to accept Western Pride were a team to be reckoned with.

"People still don't take us as strong contenders,'' the former A-League defender said.

"Sooner, rather than later, teams are targeting us. They are still saying now that without Dylan (A-League recruit Dylan Wenzel-Halls) we can't go and beat teams.

"But we know full well that we can.''

Taking over the captaincy, with Jesse Rigby recovering from an ankle injury, has only spurred Crestani on more.

"It's just a bit disappointing that people haven't realised that we have got the quality and the stuff to match it with the big boys in the league,'' Crestani said.

"And we should be now considered one of the big boys in the league.''

With midfielder Rigby out, Gabby Hawash has moved forward working closely with back four Crestani, Will McFarlane, Hayden Mchenery and Delors Tuyishime.

Crestani is backing his attackers like Andy Pengelly, Mitch Bird, Joe Duckworth and Salomon Lukonga to step up and prove a point after Pride lost Wenzel-Halls to Brisbane Roar.

The Strikers are one of the highly regarded teams in the league, only losing 2-1 to Western Pride in the first game of the new season at Perry Park.

Saturday night's match starts a testing period for Pride with Lions and Olympic also coming up.

In his second season with Pride, Crestani has played 94 NPL matches, including the past 25 for the Ipswich-based team.

As for being given extra leadership responsibility, Crestani welcomes the opportunity.

"I just kind of see it as just like another way to hopefully be a role model to younger people in the team and be someone that they can look to when times are tough,'' he said.

"Get them through it and hopefully we can grind out games. I enjoy it.''

Saturday night's men's match is at 7pm after the Pride women play South West Queensland at 5pm.

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