Will batsmen like Allansford’s Tim McDonald deflate the efforts of Nestles paceman Tim Cain or can the Factory overcome lingering doubts from seasons past?WARRNAMBOOL and District Cricket Association powerhouse Nestles is two wins away from an undefeated season.
Nanjing Night Net

The closest it has come to a loss was a sensational tie last week in a dead-rubber with the then second-placed West Warrnambool. Nestles has beaten eight of the other nine sides in the competition and been on top of the division one ladder since round three.

Yet, according to rivals, it isn’t a raging favourite in today’s semi-final showdown with fourth-placed Allansford.

The reason Nestles is only a 50-50 chance is Allansford. The Gators, winners of the past three division one flags, have beaten Nestles in three semi-finals in the past four seasons. Today at Dennington, the sides meet again. Will Nestles bury its semi-final Allansford demons or will the Gators qualify for a fifth consecutive grand final?

Nestles skipper Brett Eldridge, who has played with the club for nine years, is used to semi-final pressure, lining up for his eighth finals campaign. He has already played in three grand finals.

He dismissed any suggestion Allansford had a psychological hold over his side in big games.

“I think it would only become an issue if they were ahead of us on the ladder,” Eldridge said.

“Because everyone’s been chasing us for months, I think we are match hardened. I don’t think we are carrying the same mindset (as other semi-finals).

“There was a bit of resignation we had to play the best side. But for the last five-and-a-half months, we have been the top side.”

The only side Nestles hasn’t beaten in 2011-12 is Allansford after rain ruined an intriguing match early in the season.

“If and when we beat them, we’ve beaten every side in the competition and then we deserve to win the premiership,” Eldridge said.

“Deep down we knew they were a better side (in previous years), but we’re a different group now. We are not 16 and 17-year-olds. The Cam Williams, Alex Pyes and Geoff Williams are 21, 22-year-olds now and they are fed up getting done in finals.”

Eldridge said any weak elements in the side had either been addressed through recruiting or general improvement from youngsters.

“This year we are in a better position than we have been. In other seasons we have fallen into third or fourth and tried to hang on in a semi-final and get through,” he said.

He said Nestles had “plans” and was better prepared.

Allansford captain Josh Parkinson is confident his side, despite only sliding into fourth last week, can upset the unbeaten Nestles.

“I said this time last year when we were the minor premiers that everything from now on is 50-50,” he said. “Finishing on top doesn’t give you a 50-run head start. You are 0-0 versus 0-0. They are undefeated and they are undefeated for a reason. They will go in favourite and they deserve to.

“But (losing three semis) could hinder them. That’s not the way we operate. We are going out there to concentrate on our own game. We will take the game on and not go into our shells. We’ve been really good at that since before Christmas.

“The stuff we talk about is not taking success for granted. We’ve been able to win a few but you don’t want to take it for granted because it could be another 14 years before we win another one,” he said.

“We try and drill that into our players. But the success we’ve had means nothing (this weekend).”

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