WESTERN Pride head coach Graham Harvey sensed extra anticipation among his players this week for good reason.
With a showdown against the competition leaders looming, the Pride footballers had plenty to keep them motivated.
However, playing Gold Coast City at Palm Beach on Saturday night has added significance for the Pride team on an unbeaten run since June.
Pride can move a step closer to a historic first finals' appearance in the National Premier Leagues state competition by beating this year's pacesetters.
"We've had a good week,'' Harvey said.
"There's good excitement. For a lot of the boys, it is the first time that they have even been close to playing finals' football.
"There's a buzz around the place.''
Western Pride head into Saturday night's match in fourth place on 35 points, behind Gold Coast City (48), Brisbane Strikers (45) and Brisbane Olympic (39).
Moreton Bay United are also on 35 points but have an inferior goal difference (plus 17 compared to Pride's plus 37).
Brisbane City loom in sixth place on 34 points (plus 17 goal difference).
Harvey said his dedicated squad was fit and ready to go, with regular defender Sam Fitzgerald back after being rested with a knee injury in last weekend's 8-1 win over South West Queensland.
"Defensively, we have been consistent all year,'' he said.
"(Captain) Jesse Rigby has had a really good season in there at centre back and (former Roar player) Cam Crestani has come in and done well, and Will McFarlane is consistent, so really happy.''
However, Pride's work ethic at the back could be the most decisive aspect in the latest game.
Gold Coast lead the competition having also been a tower of consistency. They have sharpshooters like Sam Smith (22 goals) to contend with.
"We've done our homework. They are top of the league for a reason,'' Harvey said.
"We have to make sure that we prepare for a tougher game than we've had in the last two weeks (against South West Qld and Sunshine Coast).
"We are pretty confident. We have scored a lot of goals lately.''
The Pride players can also be encouraged knowing Gold Coast only beat them 2-1 when the teams clashed at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex on May 13.
Gold Coast scored two late goals from set pieces to secure victory.
"It was that game, and also the Brisbane Strikers game away, that put the boys on the run that they are on,'' Harvey said, "because that gave them the belief that they can compete against the sides with bigger budgets, bigger squads, bigger talent pools.''
Before focusing on Pride's top side, Harvey will assist the club's under 18 coach Jordan Manning oversee the promising young team's earlier clash at Palm Beach on Saturday.
In another historic opportunity for the club, Pride's 18 side will win their NPL state competition if they beat Gold Coast City in the top of the table clash.
With two games to go, Pride are currently on 42 points with 12 wins and two losses.
Gold Coast are in second on 40 points with 12 wins and four losses.
NPL: Saturday (6.30pm) - Western Pride v Gold Coast City at Duncan McKenna Field, Palm Beach. Western Pride's third-placed under 20 team play at the same venue at 4.15pm after the table-topping under 18s kick off at 2.45pm.
NPL women: Saturday (3pm) - Western Pride v South West Queensland at Gatton Football Club.
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