Lavington Panthers fine tune for crucial showdown

Lavington coach James Saker.

Lavington coach James Saker.

LAVINGTON will have plenty of selection headaches leading into this week’s blockbuster against Yarrawonga after an 88-point thumping of Wangaratta on Saturday.

The Panthers will nurse a handful of sore bodies through training this week, with Jay Banks (cork), Nick Meredith (shoulder) and Tom Hargreave (ankle) all receiving knocks.

Gun forward Justin Koschitzke is also expected to return.

Lavington must win if it wants to finish on top of the ladder and its showing against the Magpies was certainly a step in the right direction.

The scoreboard suggests a dominant performance and that’s exactly what it was.

The Panthers booted the first five goals of the game and 13 of the final 15 to completely snuff out any chance Wangaratta had of causing an upset.

And it didn’t take long for the positive signs to start showing.

Adam Prior, playing just his second game in 10 weeks, kicked the first goal of the game on his way to a bag of five.

He marked almost everything that came in his direction and looked well and truly on his way back to his best.

Myles Aalbers, who was a late inclusion for Sam Hargreave, took just seconds to get a kick after coming onto the ground for the first time since round 4 and looked right at home, setting up young gun Connor Byrne for a goal moments later.

Aalbers finished with two goals himself — a long range bomb on half-time and a clever banana straight after the break — and racked up plenty of touches.

Neither will be carried into the clash with the 

Pigeons.

Matt Pendergast, Tom Hargreave, Adam Butler, Luke Garland and Adam Flagg were all terrific.

While he is more than aware this week’s clash against the reigning premier is a completely different kettle of fish, Lavington coach James Saker could hardly fault the Panthers’ efforts.

“Our defensive pressure was very good,” Saker said.

“We didn’t use the ball well early but their pressure was a little bit higher than what we faced a week earlier.

“It took a while to adjust but our offence, from then on, was really good.

“We just persisted with our pressure.

“I also thought we took the game on a little bit more than what we have been.

“That wasn’t a directive — that was just guys playing with a bit more confidence.”

Saker also played his part and kept Wangaratta forward Joel Harris goalless for just the second time this year.

Saker will be setting himself for another epic duel with Yarrawonga star Brendan Fevola at Lavington Oval and has every right to go in confident.

Once again, the Magpies relied on star performers Daine Porter, Jamie Allan and Judd Porter to do the heavy lifting.

Wangaratta coach Mark Knobel said the Pies simply weren’t good enough.

“They’re a fantastic footy side,” Knobel said.

“They’re very well-drilled, they’re very hard at it, they obviously train hard and they play at high intensity.

“We didn’t.

“We just need to learn to work harder, so we can apply that in a game.

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