Game day at Etihad Stadium, and standing in the way of three wins in a row is a Port Adelaide side which has had an … interesting week, to say the least.
North has lost each of the last three matches against the Power; two at Etihad Stadium and one at Adelaide Oval. The common thread between them all has been an inability to stop Port from scoring.
If you missed the look at what to expect from Port Adelaide today in terms of game style, you can find Friday’s post here.
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Today’s match review will be live on The Shinboner on Sunday morning.
How will North’s midfield hold up without Shaun Higgins?
This is really the key question for today. The midfield unit is still being built up, so it doesn’t have the depth in numbers yet. Take out your most dynamic line-breaker and it obviously leaves a hole.
The benefit is that it likely means Luke Davies-Uniacke will be exposed to more genuine midfield minutes than at any other point since he arrived at the club, and there’ll be more responsibility placed on Jed Anderson and the second string of rotations.
It also means Ben Jacobs’ tagging role becomes even more important, simply to reduce the defensive pressure on the remaining midfielders.
Can North bring the same pressure as last week in its forward half?
As touched on yesterday, sides can slow the Power down with forward pressure and force them into static ball movement. It then plays into North’s hands, because any resultant inside 50’s are slow and high, advantaging the aerial strengths of Robbie Tarrant, Scott Thompson and Majak Daw.
The alternative is that Port moves quickly through its back half, slicing through the North structure and/or getting over the back of it. Much like against the Hawks, the first 15-20 minutes should tell the tale.
How will Todd Goldstein fare against Port’s makeshift rucks?
If there has been a constant in recent years against Port Adelaide, it’s how the Power has consistently come up with a plan to neutralise Goldstein’s influence.
Some of it has been due to the direct opponent – Paddy Ryder is pretty good. (I had no other way of saying that except stating the obvious). But even when Ryder has been out – looking at Round 17, 2016 as the most relevant example – Goldstein has struggled.
The key for Goldstein today will be to cover the ground and run with whoever is rucking for the Power at the time – whether it be Dougal Howard, Charlie Dixon or Justin Westhoff. If he can neutralise any advantage Port has there, then he’ll be free to do his thing with hit-outs to advantage.
(Note: The longer Howard stays in the ruck – assuming Goldstein is going relatively well – is a benefit to North because it means he won’t be playing back on Ben Brown or Jarrad Waite.)
Will the intangibles help Port’s performance?
It’s impossible to measure, but after everything Port has had to go through this week, it all sets up perfectly for the backs against the wall victory.
Under fire all week in the media due to the fallout from Sam Powell-Pepper’s incident (I’m not getting into it, nope), Lindsay’s suspension, Todd Marshall’s personal leave, uninspiring form in the last three weeks; it ticks all the boxes.
An ‘us against the world’ mentality works wonders with teams looking for a short-term boost. It wouldn’t take too much to rouse the Power into a similar mindset today.
What will the crowd be?
The last three games against Port Adelaide in Melbourne has seen attendances of 24,361 (Round 17, 2016), 22,586 (Round 3, 2015) and 19,111 (Round 3, 2014).
They’re also the three highest home and away crowds North has had against Port at Etihad Stadium. Pushing 25,000 is probably a touch optimistic but 20,000 should be the minimum and avoid any ‘lol crowds’ talk.