Wagga City Wanderers will be without skipper Sam Mangelsdorf for this weekend’s crucial double-header at Gissing Oval.
The Wanderers will host Southern Districts in a State League 2 fixture on Saturday, before backing up to play a 5th round FFA Cup match against Yagoona Lions less than 24 hours later.
But Mangelsdorf will miss both after injuring his knee in last week’s 6-1 loss to Dunbar Rovers.
“It’s probably a three to four week injury,” he said.
“It’s nothing too major. It’s the medial (ligament), not the ACL… I can run, I just can’t go sideways. There’s no lateral movement.”
The injury could have been worse, but the timing is terrible leading into one of biggest weeks in years for the sport.
“Yeah, I’m spewing, absolutely,” he said. “I was looking forward to it. I’ll still be around the boys and get as close to the action as possible. It’s a big thing.”
The Wanderers have been one of the surprise packets of the FFA Cup, winning through to the 5th round in their first season.
A win this weekend would pit them against South Coast Wolves, now a NSW premier league club but previously successful in the National Soccer League as the Wollongong Wolves.
But Mangelsdorf said the Wanderers aren’t getting ahead of themselves.
“The FFA Cup is a bit of an unknown. They’re not in the State League but this side, Yagoona, they’re a very good side. They’ve won a few state titles.”
The FFA Cup game kicks off at 1pm at Gissing Oval on Sunday, while Saturday’s State League 2 fixture against Southern Districts starts at 3pm.
The Wanderers have impressed in the Cup, but are still looking for their first win in the league.
They lost the season opener at home a fortnight ago and then copped a reality check last week against Dunbar, a powerful outfit club from Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
Coach Blaise Fagan said the Wanderers are adjusting to the higher standard of football in their inaugural season.
“In this competition, you’ve got to score goals when you get a chance to score goals,” he said.
“We have had plenty of opportunities against both sides to bother the scorekeeper.
“Our guys have to learn that it’s intense football for 90 minutes.
“In State League, you cannot relax. You can’t switch off and you have to maintain the concentration.”
Mangelsdorf’s injury in the first half last week disrupted the Wanderers defence.
But his teammates were still in the game, down just 2-1, until Dunbar opened up with 15 minutes to go.
“We just lacked a bit of discipline at the end,” Mangelsdorf said. “There’s no-one to blame but ourselves.
“I was happy with the first half, to be 1-1 was a good effort.
“We had our patches when we dominated, even midway through the second half, but we lacked discipline.”
Fagan remains confident the Wanderers have the potential to cause headaches this season, particularly after flattering feedback from their early opponents.
“In playing Dunbar and playing Camden – they both indicated to us after the game that we’re a good side and we’re going to get some success this year,” Fagan said.
“I’ve got no hesitation that we could go to Camden and get the points back, and the same with Dunbar when they come here.”
TWO games in two days against quality opposition sounds like the draw from hell.
But coach Blaise Fagan is adamant back-to-back fixtures offer a great opportunity for the Wanderers.
“I think we have an advantage by playing both games at home. We’ll do a good recovery on Saturday before the game on Sunday,” Fagan said.
“We’ve just got to hope we get no more injuries.”
The coach has ruled out prioritising Sunday’s FFA Cup match over the State League fixture.
“We’ve got to put our best team on the park both days. We have to.
“There’s no point saying we’ll make up the points later.
“We’re at home. We need to make Gissing a fortress. They’re all travelling – that’s their inconvenience and we need to make the most of it.”
Strong support at home would help make Wagga a formidable road trip for visiting teams.
“I hope the community gets behind it,” said Fagan. “It’s a great opportunity for football in Wagga.
“If we could win on Saturday and on Sunday – it’d be terrific, and lift the players no end.”
Injured captain, Sam Mangelsdorf, said he’s been pleased with the Wanderers’ home crowds so far and hopes the support continues.
He’ll be among those on the sidelines this weekend and is still blown away by the fact that Wagga is hosting this level of competition.
“It’s come as a whirlwind thing,” Mangelsdorf said.
“It’s been a long time since there’s been any pathways to play good football and be looked at.
“That’s the most exciting thing. Guys in Wagga and in the area get the opportunity to play against quality opposition and get looked at.”
According to the skipper, the biggest difficulty in starting as a new team has been sizing up the opposition.
But even that has its advantages.
“We just play with confidence,” he said.
“We’ve got nothing to lose.
“We’ve come into the comp as a nobody, as an outsider.
“We’re happy to have that tag as outsiders and just play our best game each week.”
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