Knights on finals charge
HAVING a game in hand and rated underdogs, Ipswich Knights coach Ashley Hempstead knows the importance of tonight's return local derby at Goodna.
After escaping with a dramatic 1-1 draw against Western Spirit at Bundamba last Sunday, Hempstead is bracing for a lively Spirit counter-attack.
Last weekend's controversial finish lifted Spirit to 18 points from 13 games, one spot ahead of eighth-placed Knights (16 points from 12 matches).
However, Hempstead believes tonight's local derby has longer term significance for the Football Brisbane Division 1 premiership.
"Whoever wins this game is still a chance to win the league," Hempstead said.
"It will probably be the first time we go down there as underdogs. But we hung in well (last weekend) with the players we had missing."
Happy to be back on home turf tonight, Western Spirit coach Stewart Drinkeld welcomes back his most experienced player Richie Armstrong for the 8.30pm main game.
"He's really keen to make a big impression," Drinkeld said.
"I was really happy with the effort last week. Just disappointed with the result."
Armstrong's return comes as the Knights have one of their most seasoned players back in Nick Parfitt. That should stabilise the Knights' defence with Chris Denman returning to the Ipswich City Bulls (see panel story).
Western Spirit is also being inspired by their 2012 sponsor's night at their Kippen Park base.
Drinkeld only had a light training session on Tuesday night to keep his players fresh.
"On the back of a big workload, we're just trying to taper off a little bit," he said.
The Spirit coach was closely monitoring Phil Brown and Gerard Sanfruentes who are struggling with injury niggles.
While acknowledging Spirit came hard at his side last weekend, Hempstead defended his team.
"We weren't as bad as everyone made out we were," Hempstead said.
"When I went back over the video, we actually had more chances than they did.
"We looked as though we were a side that's been stop-start and can't get any momentum."
Hempstead hopes injecting leading goal scorer Peter Drager straight into the fray will help his side. Drager only played the second half last weekend, backing up from a mid-week game after a month away.
"I probably played Drages and Mattie Christensen too long during the week," Hempstead said. "They didn't have enough time to back up and might have been a bit sore."
The Knights players were given Tuesday night off training and had a final session last night.
With both goalkeepers - Spirit's Steve Purdy and Knights' Zayne Freiberg - having outstanding games last weekend, the pressure is on both sides to find the net tonight.
Tonight: Local derbies at Kippen Park, Goodna - Western Spirit v Ipswich Knights. Division 1 game at 8.30pm after Reserves clash at 6.30pm.
Tonight: Ipswich City Bulls v Pine Hills at James Drysdale Reserve. Main game at 9pm.