Knights walk finals tightrope adjusting to key losses
WHEN the Ipswich Knights leading goal scorer was on target to finish as the league's top sharpshooter, it said a lot about what the Queensland Premier League side has lost.
Striker Lachlan Munn had scored eight goals from nine matches before being unable to play on due to a work transfer.
The Queensland Premier League's current pacesetter is Western Pride Japanese recruit Yuta Hirayama with 11 goals from 15 games.
Preparing for the Knights latest away match against Mitchelton, head coach Andy Ogden reflected on what it meant to lose Munn and injured Japanese midfielder Sho Otsuka in recent weeks.
"It took us a little while to adjust to the loss of Lachy and Sho,'' Ogden said.
"They were two big players for us.
"When you consider the leading goal scorer in the league at the moment is on 11 . . . Lachy would have played eight less games.''
Ogden said he predicted Munn would be the leading scorer, had not been for his mid-season departure.
Otsuka was also pivotal in directing the Knights attack.
However, the positive for Ogden is having under-20 players like Flyn Park, Darren Barton and Leon Nunda receiving quality first-grade experience and performing well.
"It's great because these guys are locals. They have been with the club three or four years,'' Ogden said. "It's nice to see.''
With Munn and Otsuka unavailable, Ogden is looking to Nick Edwards (five goals), Lucky Joe (two) and Ben Barrett (four) to step up in the scoring department.
In a season with injury issues, defender Ben Barrett has scored twice in the past three games. He is the only Knights player to have taken the field in all 17 QPL matches.
Ogden said the other motivation with just three games left was the prospect of playing finals football after a week off.
"That freshened them up a little bit,'' Ogden said.
"They seemed to enjoy training this week.
"It's an important game for us.''
The Knights can still make the playoffs being in sixth place on 24 points, one behind Pride and Wynnum on 24.
Third placed Mitchelton are on 30 points behind leaders Logan and South West Thunder.
"We started the week before when we played Rochedale, if we lost to Rochedale, we couldn't make the finals,'' Ogden said.
The Knights won 3-1 to keep their finals hopes alive.
"I think the boys actually enjoy that little bit of pressure and little bit of higher expectation,'' the coach said. "Where there is something on the line rather than just a game doesn't mean anything.''
The Knights only lost 1-0 to Mitchelton in their first encounter when Ogden considered his combination "the better team on the day''.
"We're going in full of confidence,'' Ogden said.
Ogden said making the finals would help alleviate a mixed season for the Knights.
"We think, as probably a lot of teams do and a lot of coaches do, that we underachieved with the result we got in some games,'' he said.
Western Pride have a second consecutive weekend off before next Friday night's local derby against the Knights at Bundamba.
QPL: Saturday (7pm) - Ipswich Knights v Mitchelton at Teralba Park.
Western Pride have weekend off.