ALBURY City caretaker coach Ant Maw believes his young side now has the belief to go deep into the cup finals.
On the cusp of missing out entirely on finals action only weeks ago, City has now clawed its way to seventh and out of a potential first up knockout against runaway league champions Twin City.
On Sunday an under-manned City struggled in the first half against Diamonds but had the better of the second half and should have taken all three points rather than share the spoils in a 1-1 draw.
Maw said it was an outstanding performance by a side decimated by injuries and illness.
Two players were forced to back up for seniors having played most of the reserve grade clash after others pulled out during the warm-up.
“We wouldn’t be the only club with a sob story at this time of year,” Maw said.
“But the flu hit us really hard in the past week, it floored a lot of the boys and then we lost Paddy Brown in the warm-up — his corked thigh just didn’t free up in the cold and wet.”
Maw and Aaron Gough took the reigns just weeks ago in the wake of coach Simon Randall being sacked.
“When we took over we talked to the boys as a group about harnessing the belief that everyone else had in the side,” Maw said.
“It was like releasing a pressure valve — we told them to play freely, if they made a mistake make up for it but don’t get hung up on it.
“I think we saw that in our first game when we beat Hotspurs, the boys started to believe and that happened again on Sunday.
“Had Paddy played he would have buried a couple of those chances but that’s football.
“Angus Kelly has a shot off one step that just lifted over the bar and was pretty close to unstoppable and we butchered another one.”
Maw believes this Sunday’s final round will be the best guide to their new self belief and standing in the competition.
“A lot has been said about Boomers not having Pete Noordewier and Matt Mildren but they are still a quality side,” he said.
“This will be the guide to how far we have come and how far we can go in the cup play-offs.
“It wasn’t so long ago Melrose came from eighth to play in the cup final, there is no reason why we can’t repeat that.”
Maw believes Brown, along with central defender Tim Watts, will come into the City side for Sunday’s clash with second-placed Boomers.
It is expected both will meet seven days later in the quarter-finals of the cup play-offs.
We wouldn’t be the only club with a sob story at this time of year. But the flu hit us really hard in the past week, it floored a lot of the boys and then we lost Paddy Brown in the warm-up — his corked thigh just didn’t free up in the cold and wet.