WANGARATTA coach Mark Knobel says the Pies will have to beat at least one league heavyweight in the run home if they want to play finals this year.
The race for the fifth and final spot livened up significantly when Wangaratta beat Rovers by eight points in yesterday’s derby.
The win put the Pies just half a game behind the Hawks on the ladder with four rounds still to play.
Wangaratta can jump into the top five this week if it beats North Albury and the Hawks lose to Yarrawonga.
But with clashes against Lavington and Albury to come, Knobel conceded the Pies still faced a big challenge breaking into the five.
“We spoke a few weeks ago about trying to win six in a row but we drew with Wodonga,” Knobel said.
“That wasn’t as bad as a loss but we’ve got four games left — three we’ll be a chance in — but we’ll see what happens after Lavi beat Albury.
“We’re starting to get some players back — Lee Dale is a chance to play and maybe Josh Porter against Lavington — so we’ve just got to keep trying to play good footy and keep improving.
“If we don’t get there this year, we’ll just be clear about how we need to play next season.”
The Pies only just managed to hang on yesterday after leading by as much as 27 points in the third quarter.
Wangaratta Rovers star Daniel Archer was sent from the ground for striking — sparking Wangaratta’s run of goals — and will front the tribunal this week.
Wangaratta star Matt Kelly, who was best on ground, said the Pies were desperate to keep their finals hopes alive by upstaging their biggest rival.
“It’s a local derby and you want to win,” he said.