WESTON coach Darren Elkin is confident his side can be the first to put the blowtorch on a weakened Magic defence in the Northern NSW State League this season tonight at Weston Park.
Broadmeadow have strung together three one-goal winning margins to start their premiership defence despite losing six defenders since their grand final win over South Cardiff last year.
The suspended Shannon Mangovski and Jets recruit Josh Small are the latest losses in Broadmeadow’s backline options, but they overcame that to hold out Charlestown in a 1-0 win last round.
Magic’s new-look defence faces potentially its toughest test tonight when it comes up against the league’s second-best attack.
With Jason Cowburn back at Weston and Joel Hardwick joining from Lake Macquarie, the Bears have options, speed and depth in the front third.
Elkin said Magic had yet to be fully tested in defence but believed that would change tonight.
‘‘I don’t think anyone’s applied the blowtorch to them at this stage,’’ he said.
‘‘They are certainly not unbeatable if someone takes it at them, so we’ll see what we can come up with.’’
Cowburn came off the bench last week when Jamie Subat went down in the 10th minute of the 2-all draw against Edgeworth with a knee injury.
Subat is expected to miss at least two matches with a medial strain, and Cowburn will start tonight alongside Hardwick and Michael Ryan up front.
The Bears will be without skipper and central defender Chris Cousins due to work commitments overseas.
Rob MacBeth filled his role last week, gaining players’ player honours.
Broadmeadow grand final hero Chris Berlin returned off the bench from a knee injury last week, scoring the match winner, and he will be expected to play more minutes tonight.
Strike partner Peter Haynes has been battling an ankle injury but captain John Bennis expects him to play.
Bennis said senior defender Josh Piddington and his backline partners were expecting a difficult time at Weston.
‘‘It’s always hard up there, it will be cold and tough,’’ Bennis said.
‘‘They’ve been scoring goals galore this year, so it will be a test for Piddo and the boys at the back.
‘‘I guess, though, the team as a unit has to keep its shape and not get pulled out into bad areas.’’
Bennis said the unbeaten champions were more than happy with their start and believed there was room for improvement.
‘‘We haven’t hit our straps yet, we’re playing well in 10-, 15-minute bursts but to string it all together would be good,’’ he said.