THE Maitland Magpies’ two most inspirational players, skipper Carl Thornton and former Socceroo Matt Thompson, return to the starting line-up for Friday night’s crucial match against Lake Macquarie.

Sitting on 27 points, just two points clear of Charlestown and three ahead of Lambton, the Magpies are taking no risks in what coach Mick Bolch has told his players is a must-win game.

While Maitland FC fans and the wider community have been swept up in the excitement of next Wednesday’s FFA Cup Round of 32 clash against Central Coast, the playing group and coaches are not looking beyond Friday night.

“All the focus is on Friday night, we’ll get it out of the way before we concentrate on the Mariners,” Bolch said. “Matt Thompson will come into the starting side on Friday night.

“He has had a few runs off the bench now and his match fitness has improved so we will give him a start on Friday night.”

Bolch said Thornton, who had a long-standing commitment away from the district for last Saturday’s 31 loss to Edgeworth, will be a huge boost for the team.

“He is so experienced and reads the game so well,” he said. “It was a massive loss last week, not having Carl there it changes the whole dynamic.”

The Magpies and Eagles were evenly matched for most of the game, but Maitland did not have an answer when Edgeworth brought on Daniel McBreen and Oliver Smith with 20 minutes to go.

“We probably had a bit better possession, without creating too many clear-cut chances but the same for them. They didn’t create too many chances at all until that last 20 minutes.

“The week before we had Matt Thompson and Alex Read coming off the bench with 20 to go and we were able to finish over Azzuri with two goals in the finish. Our depth is really hurting at the moment, Grant Brown is still out, Sean Pratt is away and Ryan Broadley is out injured.”

“Last week we had Tommy Duggan and Louis Townsend away. You take those five out and while we still have a quality 11 or 12 starting, but you are up against teams who can bring on Daniel McBrean and Oliver Smith off the bench with 20 to go that’s where we were at five weeks ago.”

Duggan and Townsend will be considered for starts on Friday night, depending on how they recover from Tuesday’s under-20s 3-1 loss to Lambton.
“It’s a really important game on Friday night after losing to Edgy,” Bolch said. “We need to win on Friday night as we can still slip out of the play-offs and finish fifth or sixth.”

MAITLAND MERCUY – Michael Hartshorn (Friday July 26, 2019)