Time for Spitfires to show polish

Jamin Barrett in action for the Spitfires. Picture: PETER MERKESTEYN

Jamin Barrett in action for the Spitfires. Picture: PETER MERKESTEYN

TODAY is a litmus test for the Spitfires.

The Hockey Albury Wodonga men will board a bus for Tuggeranong in the nation’s capital at 6am for a second-round clash with Wests.

Earlier this year, their opposition delivered a hockey lesson in a 6-1 thumping on the Border.

But coach Matt Smart expects a very different outcome today.

“There was a lot of adjustment to this new competition and we have taken a while to find our feet,” he said.

“But we have been playing some good hockey of late.

“If we can stick to our structure and play out the 70 minutes we will give this a shake — it will certainly give us a measure on how far we have come this year.

“We will surprise a few sides in the second half of the year and perhaps pinch a few games.”

Despite Smart’s optimism, the Spitfires will again have a bare-bones squad.

Captain Tony Donnelley’s troublesome hamstring needs another week, while Josh Pritchard’s return has been further delayed after a work accident this week.

“We have had to deal with these setbacks throughout the year,” Smart said.

“We head up there with young guys who have shown they can match it with the better sides.

“They now know what to expect of their opposition, they know what to do.

“If we play to our structure, let the ball do the work and, most importantly, keep a clean sheet from the short corners, we can beat even the top sides.”

The Spitfires are second last on the table with a win and a draw, while Western Districts is fourth, having won five of its nine matches.

The Strikers have a week off from the Capital League with the bye.