RETIRING Edgeworth captain Mark Wilson believes it has been a ‘‘massive effort’’ from his side just to make today’s elimination semi-final against Charlestown at Lisle Carr Oval.
But now the Eagles will settle for nothing less than a Northern NSW State League grand final appearance.
Edgeworth secured fifth spot with a 3-1 victory over Valentine on Wednesday night, coming back from a 1-all half-time score that would have given the last finals place to South Cardiff who routed Hamilton 7-3 that night.
It was the final step in a huge comeback from Edgeworth, who had only two points after five rounds.
‘‘The character of the lads has been unbelievable,’’ Wilson said.
‘‘We went into the game thinking we had to win anyway because Olympic had nothing to play for, so we expected Southy to win.
‘‘We knew the score at half-time and the second half from us was just super. We put it to them and deserved to win.’’
But 38-year-old Wilson, who played 186 national league games for Newcastle, said the Eagles were not prepared to settle for simply making the finals.
‘‘We’ve been up for every game and there’s a really good feeling in the camp,’’ he said.
‘‘Everyone’s playing for each other and we feel like we achieved something massive, but we can’t forget at the start of the year we were expected to be top two or three.
‘‘So if we don’t make the grand final from here with the squad we’ve got, we’ll be disappointed.
‘‘There’s no excuses for us tomorrow. We’re expecting to win.’’
Josh Sparke aggravated a groin injury in a tackle during the win over Valentine but Wilson said the influential wide player was confident of taking the field today.
Charlestown’s last match was on Sunday when they drew 2-all with Weston, and the other Mark Wilson with a say in today’s match – the Charlestown coach – believes the longer preparation will give the Blues a slight edge.
His Edgeworth namesake agreed but believed the Eagles could overcome the setback.
‘‘It’s a short turnaround and a small advantage to Charlestown, but we’ve been backing up from midweek games for weeks now and we’ve adapted pretty well,’’ the Eagles skipper said.
‘‘Every game has been like a grand final for us for a few weeks now, so we’re approaching it the same and we’re up for the challenge.’’
Charlestown had their own setback this week when skipper and striker Kane Goodchild was handed a two-week suspension for two yellow cards against Weston.
Mitchell Wallace will come into the starting side to partner new captain Scott Smith up front.
‘‘Kane’s going to be a massive loss because he’s the captain of our side at the moment and obviously up front he scores goals for us,’’ the Blues coach said.
‘‘But Mitchell Wallace has done really well for us this year. He has started up front for us and he’ll do a job for us and do it well.’’
Charlestown may be without Jay Richley due to a hip flexor problem, but Kyle Hodges returns from suspension to fill the void left by the injured Cameron Hughes in the centre of defence.
Tomorrow Broadmeadow play the Jets Youth at Wanderers for the chance to take on minor premiers Hamilton in the grand final qualifier.
Magic striker Peter Haynes remains in doubt with a badly bruised foot.
Haynes missed Broadmeadow’s 2-0 win over the Jets midweek in which the Youth side were missing their A-League players – James Virgili, Mitchell Oxborrow, Jacob Pepper, Sam Gallaway and Jack Duncan.
Those players could be back tomorrow, depending on how they feature in tonight’s A-League trial against Wellington Phoenix at Weston Park.