Big game to kick off new year as third host first at Port Soif

‘IT DOES not get much bigger.’

That was Rovers coach Kevin Gillease’s assessment yesterday as his side prepare to host St Martin’s at Port Soif tomorrow in a blockbuster of a FNB Priaulx League clash to kick off the new year.

‘I don’t think they will need much of a team talk,’ said Gillease of his own third-placed team, although the same will probably apply in the leaders’ dressing room too.

‘We have got a good record at the Soif, we like playing down there and the pitch is good at the moment so it should be a good game and we are looking forward to it – the boys are itching to get back.’

For Rovers, it is a first outing since the disappointment of a 4-1 defeat to Sylvans over a month ago but that break has allowed several players time to recover from injuries and their coach reported that, other than Lewis Robin being off-island and a question mark over James Grundy, who has been struggling with a groin problem, they are as strong as they can be at the moment.

That includes the bonus of Fin Whitmore being available this weekend.

‘The few weeks off have done us some good with getting bodies recovered,’ Gillease said.

‘The only downside from our point of view was to finish last year off having had that Sylvans result – it would have been nice to have been able to put that right a lot sooner.’

Rovers were due to play Alderney a week after that defeat, but Covid caused the postponement of that fixture and then last weekend’s dreadful weather meant their Guernsey FA Cup tie was called off too.

So with his side currently 10 points adrift of Saints, albeit having played a game fewer, does Gillease see this as a must-win game?

‘As far as title challenges go, you have to beat Saints really if realistically you want to come out on top,’ he said.

‘We had a couple of poor results against North and Sylvans towards the end of last year when we were missing some players, but we have had a good chat and, I know it’s cliched, we are not talking about the league. We just want to do well in every game we play and see where we end up.

‘When you look at it, from last season our team is barely recognisable and just to be where we are is a credit to the lads and their attitude.

‘The boys who have stepped up into the team are proving a point and it shows, as a club, we must be doing something right because they keep answering the questions asked of them.’

Saints coach Leon Meakin was quick to shoot down the idea that Rovers would be out of the title hunt if his side won away tomorrow.

‘Because the league is so competitive, you can see teams dropping points against anyone – there are too many points to play for and too many good teams in the league to call it that [a must-win] this early,’ he said.

‘This game is not the be-all and end-all for Rovers, although I’m sure they will probably paint it as that to get their players even more up for the game than usual.’

Like Rovers, the Saints’ injury list has eased thanks to the Christmas break and the influential Louis Hunter is one of those back in contention, while Meakin reported that Eti Le Prevost has started training again, although this game will likely come too soon for him to feature.

St Martin’s midfielder Louis Hunter has recovered from injury. (Picture by Andrew Le Poidevin, 30384538)

‘We had a break after the Bels game, last week we trained for the first time since then so we have not had a lot of sessions, but it was nice to have a small break,’ Meakin said.

‘Now we come back into what is a pretty big game and Rovers will be flying at us, for sure, hoping to catch us cold.

‘I think it will be a good, close game. We always have a tough game there.’

Rovers against St Martin’s kicks off at 2pm tomorrow, as do the other three Priaulx League games as Manzur host Bels at the KGV, Rangers face Northerners at St Andrew’s and Sylvans entertain Vale Rec at St Peter’s.

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