Trio lead way in survival stakes

LAKE Macquarie coach Chris Turner has turned to his experienced trio of Danny Burt, Damien Brown and Sean Matthews to convey to his young side what to expect today when they battle West Wallsend for survival in the Northern NSW State League.

His fingers are crossed all three will show the way on the pitch at Johnston Park.

The Roosters are in the almost unbelievable position of being demoted a year after they finished second in their promotion season in the state league.

They are level on seven points with the Bluebells but well clear on for and against, meaning a draw will ensure their survival and relegate West Wallsend, who were expected to finish last.

Turner, who returned as Roosters coach mid-season to replace Graham Schofield, said he would be relying on his experienced men in the pressure-cooker atmosphere but only former national league defender Burt was assured of playing.

Matthews returns from suspension but is battling illness.

Former Central Coast Mariner Brown trained only lightly on Thursday night because of a calf injury.

‘‘It’s a massive game, the biggest I’ve had in my three years at the club and probably the biggest game I’ve had in my life,’’ Turner said.

‘‘Danny Burt sent me a text saying this is the biggest game of his footballing career, and that says it right there. That’s the feeling in our group.

‘‘We had a team talk and I was asking the guys who had played in really big games what the other guys could expect, giving them the benefit of their experience.

‘‘Last week I looked out there and everyone was 21 or younger except one bloke who was 40 [Burt]. That says a lot, it’s a tough place to be.

‘‘But if I can get Damien and Sean on the ground with Burty, that gives me that experience out there and that will be huge on a day like tomorrow.’’

Turner said former Mariner Andre Gumprecht lasted only 20 minutes in the 3-1 loss to Valentine last week due to a calf injury and would not play today.

Harry Maguire (toe) was their other injury concern and would be a substitute at best.

Despite the situation, Turner said the Roosters would not play for the draw.

‘‘We’re going to go out there and take the game to them, we’ll be out there to win,’’ he said.

‘‘I think the moment you sit and play for the draw is the moment you concede goals. We have to go out and win the game tomorrow, that’s our instructions and that’s the way we’ll set up the team.’’

Turner, who spent nine years at West Wallsend as a player, has prepared his squad for a battle.

‘‘Any game against any other team would be easier for me to turn up to,’’ he said.

‘‘Everyone will be there. I know what the community is like out there, it will be huge.’’

The Roosters are shock relegation material but the Bluebells have looked to be the team heading for first division all season.

They finished last in 2011, lost nine first-team players and survived only because the competition expanded to 10 teams.

Coach Greg Smith, who steered Hamilton to six grand finals wins, hoped his young squad could rise to the occasion.

‘‘I always believed we could beat somebody, it was just a matter of when,’’ Smith said.

‘‘It’s just unfortunate we’ve left it this late and a last-game, must-win situation. But they were switched on at training, hopefully they can realise how big a game it is for the club.

‘‘It would be terrific for the club and the players if we could stay up.’’

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