WARRNAMBOOL Rangers are confident of making the Ballarat and District Soccer Association grand final for a second consecutive season.
The Rangers play Ballarat — the side they lost the 2011 decider to — in the division one preliminary final tomorrow.
Sebastopol Vikings, who defeated Warrnambool in extra time in their semi-final, awaits the winner in the grand final. Rangers coach Luke Mackenlay said his side had a 2-2 record against Ballarat this season.
“We feel we have to go in with the same intensity and drive we took in last week, which we haven’t done against these guys,” he said.
“We’ve always gone in depleted when we’ve played them. The boys are pumped. There is a bit of disappointment around the camp we didn’t get the week off.”
Mackenlay said Ballarat was a balanced side. “They counter-attack with their speed,” he said. “They have good, young players who run in the midfield and forward line and mix it with veterans in defence.
“They are a good passing side, especially on synthetic.” Mackenlay said Warrnambool was capable of nullifying Ballarat’s play-makers.
He said the Rangers’ strong season was testament to the players’ commitment.
“I put it down to fitness and energy,” he said.
Rangers’ centre back Lee Hunter moved forward in the preliminary final loss and scored the side’s two goals.
Teenager Dylan Johnstone also received praise from Mackenlay. “He’s 17 years old and holds his own,” he said. “He always gives teams headaches. He’s always around the ball.”
The preliminary final will start at 6.30pm. “Last week was our first time under lights this year,” Mackenlay said.
“The boys enjoyed it. The boys train under lights so it should come naturally.”
Rangers’ striker Engin Torun suffered a dislocated shoulder in the qualifying final and will miss the rest of the season.
Warrnambool’s under 15s will play Forrest in the preliminary final for a chance to play Vic Park in the grand final.
The Rangers’ under 17 team will play the winner of the Ballarat and North United preliminary final in the grand final.