By JIM GEORGE
THIS week marks the halfway point in the regular season fixtures, with a welcome break coming next weekend.
The two league leaders clash in the match of the season so far, both proudly bearing 100 per cent win records, and no doubt this will be the focus of attention for most of the local football community.
This promises to be an epic encounter between two talented, skilled and fast running sides, on an excellent playing surface at the Den.
The two undefeated sides in the North Coast Premier League meet at last, when Woolgoolga Wolves bring their brand of fast flowing, skillful, 11-man football to town to take on the highly professional and consistently excellent reigning premiers in the match of the season.
Lions consistently dominate the Premier League with unparalleled attacking and defensive records.
Jon Ross, their coach, says Wolves are the 2005 big improvers as evidenced by their 8-0 annihilation of Coffs Coast Tigers last week, and a very different side from that which lost a pre-season trial to Lions 9-2.
Lions will be looking for strikers Nick Lambert and Ben MacKay to break down a defence in which Asher Jesiolowski and Nick Morgan are outstanding.
Wolves expect a crucial mid-field struggle, where Lions skipper Dion Ball confronts Wolves new pairing of Ryan Zelvis and Aaron Armstrong.
Jon Ross and Mick Jackson, his counterpart from Woolgoolga had nothing but words of respect and admiration for their respective oppositions.
Wolves captain Anthony Baston and Ben Mackay of Coffs United echoed these sentiments, both stating how much they are looking forward to enjoying a tough test for both squads.
Mick Jackson says his side is exceeding all pre-season hopes.
"We play quality football," he said.
"We actually turned the corner last year without getting the results.
"The team is the same, bar two excellent new recruits Dylan Rowley (Physiotherapist) and Mark Costner (Teacher).
"We have retained all those committed to the club win or lose, and Im happy with that.
"Players have a good attitude to the game and want to play for the club - not for themselves.
"Coffs Lions play good football, they have good athletes, with good ball control, who combine well.
"They usually seem to play to a plan and theyre good to watch.
"Our guys are eagerly awaiting the match, win, lose or draw Ill be happy if we play good football, and take a second shot at them later in the season.
Jon Ross said the Lions, who started training in mid-January, train and play hard.
Several are struggling with some niggling injuries that need resting and look forward to the long weekend break.
"We expect a tough game," he said.
"Everybody wants to beat us, but they know that they will have to play well to do it, especially against a defence that has conceded only three goals.
"Ben Mackay has scored 12 goals and is in excellent form.
"Sadly Brett Adams and David Craggs, our goalkeeper, are not available for this game due to injuries, but Stuart Cook, a good young keeper, will be having his second outing in goal for us."
Whatever the outcome, spectators are guaranteed a spectacle of good football, played in good spirit, on a pitch that is conducive to good passing and ball-control a prospect to savour!
Simultaneously, in Grafton, Tigers meet Tigers in what might, by some, be thought to be a comparatively toothless affair, but that would be unfair to two proud teams who have struggled to find their best form so far.
Westlawn will be looking to post their first win against a Coffs Coast Tigers outfit that lost heavily at Woolgoolga last week by playing the sort of football that must soon begin to pay off and help them escape the threat of relegation.
The Sunday games are full of interest.
Valley United return to the fray at Toormina after a week off and face a Scorpions side that netted nine in a one-sided match against Majos Dragons last time out.
Scorpions will be determined to hold onto fourth spot on the ladder against visitors who have only taken a solitary point from a possible 18 so far.
Majos Dragons travel from Grafton to Korora, bringing the second-worst defensive record in the league, but have drawn three games and are due for a result.
They too will be keen to haul themselves out of the relegation zone, and may just surprise a Storm side that has not won at home since round one.
Draw for this weekend.
Saturday: 5pm: Westlawn Tigers v Coffs Coast Tigers at Barnier Park.
7pm: Coffs City United Lions v Woolgoolga Wolves at the Den.
Sunday, 2pm: Sawtell Scorpions v Valley United at Toormina Oval, Northern Storm v Majos Dragons at Korora.