Mansfield enters the final third of the Goulburn Valley League season outside the top six, but remains a realistic chance of playing finals if it can string some form together.
At the top of the Eagles’ priority list is producing an upset win tomorrow when it heads to the GV’s home of football — Deakin Reserve — to face Shepparton.
They welcome back gun midfielder Brett Mahoney from holiday, but will have to do it without leading goal-kicker Ben Fagan, who suffered a concussion in the side’s win against Shepparton Swans.
‘‘It’s a big chance to beat a team above us, because we haven’t done that too many times,’’ Mansfield coach Cameron Hotton said.
‘‘We’re keen for the opportunity and hopefully some good football can help us to four points.
‘‘Normally we’ve lapsed at times (against top-ranked sides), we need to make sure we don’t switch off for five or 10 minutes at a time and concede a few goals.’’
With a favourable remaining slate of games, the clash with the Bears is clearly Mansfield’s toughest game left, with Tatura its only other meeting with a top six side.
One game back from Euroa and Tatura, Hotton said the Eagles knew their chances of playing finals were strong if they produced their best.
‘‘We know the opportunity is still there and it’s in our court,’’ he said.
‘‘We just need to start playing consistent football and beat those teams above us, because just beating those below us won’t get us in.’’
Ryan Bartlett joins Mahoney back in the side, but Will Foster and Jack Nation will miss.
Shepparton, which welcomes ruckman Ash Holland and Murray Bushranger Lachie Ash into its line-up, is third and just six per cent behind second-placed Benalla.
The Bears enter off their best month of football for the season, form coach Sean Harrap was keen to continue.
‘‘We’ve got good ins and it’s really hard picking the team; there will be blokes missing, but that’s part of being a good football team, having a good squad, not just a good team,’’ Harrap said.
‘‘Our last month has been really consistent on the back of that Echuca game. We’re bringing good pressure and against Rochester our first half was some of the best football we’ve played.
‘‘We’re still working hard and need to bring that effort and pressure and we want to get that ball movement nice and quick.’’
In dreadful Mansfield conditions, the Bears beat the Eagles by a goal in round two in a low-scoring affair.
Harrap said there was plenty to be careful of when considering the opposition line-up.
‘‘They’re always a tough team to play, we had a really good game up there even though the conditions weren’t overly great,’’ Harrap said.
‘‘We just expect a hard-fought battle and they’ve got good players — James Herridge is the one for me, he was really good against us and looking at the results he is having a pretty good year.
‘‘They’ve got good players and we’re quite wary of the team they’ve got.’’