Mission to clip wings of Eagles
IPSWICH Knights head coach Ashley Hempstead knows tonight's Division 1 clash at Bundamba could be one of the toughest of the season.
With Southside Eagles leading the competition and the Knights climbing to equal third with a game in hand, the stage is set for a classic duel at Eric Evans Reserve.
However, while eager to retain his side that wore down the tenacious Ipswich City Bulls 2-0 last weekend, Hempstead is thinking further ahead.
He's looking for his quality bench to provide the vital back-up needed against premiership contenders like Southside Eagles.
In recent weeks, the Knights' dugout has been strong with experienced Division 1 player Zygan Condie ready to help out, along with exciting prospects Jay Kitching, Alex Bryan and Alex Roddy.
In-form Reserve grade player Ryan Patten has also put his name forward with some consistent efforts.
"Losing Red (Brodie Kenyon) and a couple of other boys, we've had to in some ways rebuild a little bit," Hempstead said.
However, Hempstead knows how valuable his bench will be in big games and later in the season, especially with catch-up matches.
Having lost two games to the weather has also made it hard for the Knights to build momentum.
"With the stop-start season, we're just trying to keep it with the littliest change as possible," he said.
"We win this week, we turn on 10 points and they're the leaders so it's a huge game."
Despite the early season disruptions, Hempstead believes his team is starting to progress.
"A new coach, we've lost a few players and a couple of things haven't gone right for us and we're just gradually building into it," he said. "We need to grind out results until we get flowing.
"We play this week and have another week off (for Easter).
"I think the boys are getting fitter and starting to learn how I want to play."
Hempstead was happy the Knights kept a side scoreless for the first time last weekend.
"We've changed a few things around. The side is different from previous years," he said.
"Someone said we only beat the Bulls 2-0 but I thought it was probably one of our better performances.
"I'd rather give credit to the Bulls."
Weekend regional matches
Division 1 tonight - 7pm: Ipswich Knights v Southside Eagles, Eric Evans Reserve, Bundamba.
Tomorrow: Division 1 - 3pm: Ipswich City v Moggill, Sutton Park, Brassall; 4pm: Western Spirit v Pine Rivers United, Kippen Park, Goodna. Diamond League (women) - 3pm: Ipswich Knights v Redlands United, Eric Evans Reserve, Bundamba.