Next four weeks are biggest in Magpies Crusaders' history
AS the excitement of a fast-approaching FFA Cup Round of 16 tie continues to build, the threat of NPL relegation remains an ever-present at the back of the minds of Magpies Crusaders coach Henry Kennell and his playing group.
Like a debt collector who keeps coming back for more, potential relegation to the second-tier FQPL is a dark cloud the team has been unable to shake since mid-way through the campaign.
Mackay started the 2019 campaign at a canter, with 10 points of a possible 15 to open the season, before the wheels dramatically fell off.
A string of eleven consecutive losses pushed Magpies Crusaders from the NPL top four to its bottom, and into the midst of an unwanted battle for survival.
Mackay must remain in the Queensland top-tier, for the good of our club football and junior development programs.
The FQPL is not a poor competition; quite the opposite actually. But in the Queensland football hierarchy, an NPL presence is pivotal in the fight to remain relevant.
We do not want to be the next Northern Fury.
If Mackay drops to the second tier next season, up against the cashed-up might of clubs fighting to win their place at the NPL table, it could be a long road back to relevance for Kennell and his men.
We need only look to Peninsula Power, who for much of the season paced the competition and currently sit in second, as an example.
Power worked their way through the FQPL last season and once rewarded with promotion to the NPL, have toiled to ensure they remained in the top-tier.
Football giveth; football taketh away
ONLY two weeks ago the club appeared to be out of the woods.
They dramatically upset competition heavyweights Olympic FC in a 3-2 thriller at Sologinkin Oval and just days later survived late drama to progress past Coomera Colts and keep their FFA Cup journey alive.
The lid was off; the sense of true excitement in the air was palpable.
Sitting pretty two wins clear of Western Pride and the drop zone, Kennell's men were riding a wave of momentum that appeared destined to take them safely into next season.
Instead, consecutive defeats to Moreton Bay United and Lions FC, coupled with Pride's surprise wins over Gold Coast United and Moreton Bay, have pushed Magpies Crusaders back underwater.
Now they are fighting to stay afloat.
With four rounds remaining, wins are at a premium.
The 26-goal differential is too-great a deficit to claw back inside a month of football, no matter how magic Michael Lyall's left foot may be.
Coach Kennell has four rounds and 21 days to spin some magic and deliver a return to the NPL in 2020.
Mackay needs and deserves a place at the table.
But it is up to the Magpies Crusaders playing group to prove to the rest of the world they will not go quietly into the night, and fans to turn out in numbers and play their part.