Wagga City Wanderers will field their strongest line-up of the season on Saturday, with key midfielders Adrien Jolly and Chinedu Arinze returning for their home game against Western Condors.
Chasing their first win since early April, when they beat the Condors 5-1 in Sydney in the opening round, the Wanderers hope to reap the rewards of a ‘dual registration’ rule change which allows players easier movement between the Pascoe Cup and state league.
The change was in effect last week, with Henwood Park striker Jake Ploenges and coach Matt Menser, playing for the Wanderers.
But the return this week of US import Arinze (from suspension) and Jolly (unavailable) is set to showcase its value.
“The experience they’ll bring is huge, they’ve got the composure that we lacked last week,” Wanderers coach Ben Schmid said.
“Probably across all three grades it’s the strongest three teams we’ve put on the park yet.
“We’ll send two of our 20s back to under 20s and they’ll send two of the 18s back so feeding from the top, it’s a very good result for us.”
The Condors are one win above Wagga on the ladder, but have lost their last three, with an aggregate scoreline of 9-0.
However, they did enjoy two wins before those losses and, despite their big win when they met in round one, the Wanderers won’t get ahead of themselves, particularly after last week’s surprise defeat to bottom-placed FC Gazy Auburn.
But Schmid knows it’s a crucial opportunity to turn things around.
“It’ll be tough but this is one where we want to walk away with three points and turn the season around and have a good second half of the season,” he said.
“What we’ve been working on all week is shutting the man on the ball down very quickly.
“This team in the first round, they played very direct, they liked to pick it up in the midfield and just try and play that long ball in behind our defence.
“We’ve worked on a defensive structure to allow them to have the ball until they come into our midfield and then try and pinch it from there.”
The game starts at 3pm at Gissing Oval.