Depleted Rangers ready for Cougars
Southampton Rangers travel to the Den tonight with a depleted squad to face Premier Division leaders Devonshire Cougars.
Rangers would leapfrog Cougars into first place if they secure the three points in the top-of-the-table clash with both teams level on 16 points.
But coach Marvin Belboda, who took charge at Southampton Oval at the start of the season, admits the odds are stacked against his side who are without four key players through injury or unavailability.
Goalkeeper Jason Smith, defender Jahma Charles, and midfielders Travis Wilkinson and Janeiro Tucker all miss tonight’s match.
“I’ve told my guys they need to take it like any other game, as if we’re still down at the bottom and need to get every point we can,” said Belboda.
“I’m going in with a depleted squad as I’m missing four starters, but your team is only as strong as your weakest link and if we can’t do without them then we can’t (win the title).
“I think we have a good enough side to contend with anybody.”
Belboda admits he has been pleasantly surprised by Rangers scintillating start to the season, winning five or their seven games.
They did slip up against Somerset Trojans at Somerset Cricket Club last week although Belboda is confident Rangers can continue their encouraging first half of the campaign.
“I’ve been very surprised by our start to the season because I’ve got the same team as we’ve had for the last few seasons.
“I came with expectations to do better than the team have previously done, so to get 16 points already when the team only got 13 all last season is encouraging.
“Rangers been fighting relegation in the last few seasons but I think my style of play and attacking mindset has helped the team out.
“I came up here to show them how to play the game. Everyone has their own philosophy but obviously the old philosophy didn’t work.
“I think a lot of our good form has been down to the team’s togetherness. They tell me it’s the first time they seen 20-plus players turning up to training for a long time.”
Rangers, who avoided relegation on goal difference last season, boast several experienced players in Janeiro Tucker, Stevie Astwood and new capture Tokia Russell.
And Belboda believes those players’ extra know-how has had a positive effect in the dressing room.
“Stevie (Astwood) will definitely be involved tomorrow night. He’s been out for a while with a knee problem,” said the former Paget player-coach.
“His experience has definitely paid off for us even though he hasn’t played every game.
“He has helped out during training and it’s a win-win situation for me to have guys like Stevie and Janeiro Tucker around.”
Tonight’s match kicks off at 8pm.