BENDIGO City playing coach Greg Thomas hopes a clash against Men's State League 5 West powerhouse Barwon can again bring out the best in his young squad on Saturday.
City stunned the Blue and Whites in their earlier season contest at Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve, executing a punishing 7-nil victory.
It remains the undisputed the highlight of Bendigo City's first season back in the senior ranks since 2017.
Bendigo City (6-3-3) can expect a ruthless response from Barwon (13-3) on its home turf, especially in light of an unexpected 8-3 defeat against Balmoral last weekend.
That loss sent the Blue and Whites packing from the top of the championship ladder with six rounds remaining, leaving them one point behind Melton Phoenix.
Thomas anticipates Barwon will come out all guns blazing.
"They will be tough, they will be looking to rebound," he said.
"Last time (against Barwon) was undoubtedly one of our best performances for the year.
"We're up for the challenge, but sadly we are going to be stretched as a club this weekend - we've got a lot of COVID in the club and are missing quite a few players.
"It's going to be a real battle away from home, particularly numbers-wise."
Bendigo City enters the match on a two-game winning streak following victories over Maribyrnong Greens (4-1) and Ballarat (1-0).
Thomas praised his players' spirit and fortitude in last weekend's win at Ballarat.
"The boys seem to be growing into it a bit more now, knowing how to grind out a result," he said.
"Last weekend wasn't easy on a horrible cold day and muddy pitch, but the boys just dug deep.
"It was a real mature performance. I was really pleased with it.
"We knew this year was going to be tough, being our first year back with a senior team, and it's not an easy league either.
"We really want to finish the season on a high and grow a bit of momentum going into next year. That's the plan.
"We'd like to finish in the top four if we can; that would be a massive achievement for the club."
An obvious threat to City's aspirations, Barwon's Mylton Bradley (19) and Christina Mahon (17) sit one and two on the leading goal scorers list, while Luke Burns leads all Bendigo City goal scorers with nine.
In the reserves, Bendigo City (12-2-1) will look to maintain top spot on the ladder against third-placed Barwon (10-2-3).
The boys seem to be growing into it a bit more now, knowing how to grind out a result.- Bendigo City playing coach Greg Thomas
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