Spotlight falls on battle to beat drop

Cathy Rodgers, Victorians and Lynn Anderson, Portadown
Cathy Rodgers, Victorians and Lynn Anderson, Portadown

While the shock of the season, and arguably that of the decade, came with Lurgan’s win over mighty Pegasus on Saturday the attention will be firmly focussed on the other end of the table tonight.

Portadown and Victorians meet at Edenvilla in a game which could have a huge bearing on which team avoids automatic relegation come April.

At the moment only goal difference separates the sides with the Ports having the edge but all that could change tonight unless, of course, the match ends in a draw.

A fortnight ago you would have fancied Portadown to win the game and pile more pressure on Vics but all that has changed over the last two weeks.

Cathy Rodgers’ Vics side surprised Ards with a 2-2 draw having been two goals to the good and then they went down by the odd goal in five against another IHL contender in the shape of the Ulster Elks last Wednesday night.

‘Midweek syndrome’ sometimes has an adverse effect on teams as Pegasus, Ballymoney and Ards have found to their cost in the recent past.

But Victorians seem to positively revel under floodlights as those recent results and performances have shown.

Tonight’s game was switched from last Saturday at Portadown’s request but the south Belfast side were glad to agree to the midweek slot.

And that’s not surprising when you consider that their playing strength is increased then as opposed to on Saturdays when they are very often one or two regulars short.

Hannah Irvine plays netball some weekends and Jenny Hayes along with Rachel Johnson are also often unavailable.

But two of those three will line out tonight as Vics aim for another upset although it wouldn’t be as big a surprise if they took something out of the game than it was when they held Ards.

The Victorians captain is happy that her side is at virtually full strength for tonight’s showdown and there is an air of quiet confidence in the camp.

“There is a big gap between the Premier League and Senior One and we suffered badly from not being able to field the same side every week before Christmas.” said Cathy.

“We struggled to get players every week and old systems of play that worked last season didn’t work for us any more.

“But we always tried to remain positive despite losing almost every game and now we have renewed confidence after recent results.

“One of the many positives was that we led in both games and to have drawn with Ards and gone so close against the Elks was encouraging.

“Now we need to take those positives into the Portadown game and we are treating it as a ‘must-win.’

“Having said that if we were to lose it wouldn’t be the end of the world for us and a draw wouldn’t necessarily be too bad either.

“But with those recent games and performances under our belts we will be going all out to win and that is our objective against Portadown.”

Things could have been a little different at Edenvilla tonight had Victorians not thrown away a 2-0 half time lead in the corresponding game on match day two at the Dub.

That game ended in a 2-2 stalemate and since then both teams have picked up only one additional point, Vics from the draw with Ards and the Ports from a 1-1 result against Randalstown.

It’s a hard one to call but with their Saturday absentees on the team sheet and those recent unexpected results, particularly the draw with Ards perhaps Vics might just have at least a slight pyschological advantage going into the game.