MAITLAND marquee Matt Thompson hopes to play through the pain of a knee injury to boost the Magpies’ depleted attack in their key game with Hamilton on Sunday.
The Magpies are fourth on 25 points heading into round 18 of the Northern NSW NPL and a win over fifth-placed Olympic (22 points) at Darling Street Oval could potentially put them six points clear of the chasing pack for a finals berth. Charlestown (22) host leaders Edgeworth (33) on Sunday.
Maitland coach Michael Bolch, though, is running low on attacking options after the loss of Matt Comerford, Josh Dutton-Black and Ryan Clarke to injury. Sean Pratt (away) and James Thompson (overseas) are also missing, while defender Alex Read, a former A-League striker, is suspended.
Former Socceroo Thompson hurt his knee in the goalless draw with Valentine on July 1 and missed last week’s 2-0 win over the Jets Youth. He hoped to give Bolch another option up front.
“I copped a tackle against Valentine and twisted the knee a bit, but I kept playing because I didn’t think there was anything to worry about, but it turns out there’s a bit more than we thought,” Thompson said.
“There’s a slight tear of the meniscus, but I’ll just strap it and put up with the pain. I trained on it last night and it pulled up quite good.
“We’re struggling. Everyone in the front-line seems to be falling apart. The starting front four a few months ago is not there, so it’s a bit disappointing, but it is what it is. I’m sure we’ll get through it.”
The key match also marks the return of Bolch to Darling Street Oval, where he was coach for eight seasons before taking over at Maitland.
“No one has really said anything about it,” Thompson said. “Bolchy has done wonders for that club, but he hasn’t mentioned Hamilton once and he didn’t put this game on the calendar.
“Maybe deep down or behind closed doors he’s got that special feeling behind it, and he really wants to win it, but he doesn’t let us know that. We’re just looking for a finals berth, and even if we were playing Adamstown this weekend, it would have the same importance.”
Olympic also have ongoing injury concerns but came through a 4-1 midweek win over Valentine unscathed. Coach Peter McGuinness hoped to have Jarryd Sutherland (knee) back off the bench for the crucial game.
“If we get the points, we’ll give ourselves a chance of making the finals and momentum is a wonderful thing,” McGuinness said. “If we carry our good performance from Wednesday night into this, we should perform well. We won’t die wondering trying to win this game, I’ll make sure of that.”
As for the return of Bolch and former players to Darling Street, McGuinness said: “It should make for a bit of atmosphere. I’m sure they’ll be some wisecracks and carrying on, but all in good nature. Bolchy spent almost 10 years there, he had a good career there.”
Also Sunday, third-placed Broadmeadow (29) travel to Valentine and Adamstown host Weston. On Saturday, Lake Macquarie welcome the Jets Youth.
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