Ranchi, Feb 8: Ranchi Rhinos would look to ride on the wave of home support when they take on the unpredictable Uttar Pradesh Wizards in the semi-final of the inaugural Hockey India League at Birsa Munda Astroturf Hockey Stadium here Saturday.
The venue has witnessed the best turnout of spectators throughout the tournament and the vociferous crowd support in the semi-final would only add to the confidence level of the home team.
Apart from the two matches against Delhi Waveriders, which they lost, the hosts have been dominant in all their home games and have not conceded more than one goal per match against any other team.
“Home ground and home crowd are our advantages. Players get great energy from the crowd. It’s a must win game, and it would be challenging,” Rhinos coach Gregg Clark said.
The Rhinos midfield has a settled look and their ability to break down opposition’s moves effectively has contributed to the team’s defensive steel.
The goal scoring form of young Mandeep Singh (8) and the improvement in their penalty corner conversion ratio means the Wizards would have no respite at any end.
While the Rhinos have little to worry about on the tactical and formation front, the hosts would be wondering which side of the unpredictable Wizards turns out Saturday.
The Wizards have been one of the most inconsistent sides in the tournament and had struggled to make through to the last four stage. But every time they had their backs to the wall, the team came up with a performance worthy of champions and their 4-1 victory over league leaders Delhi Waveriders in the last league encounter would have given them the confidence that they can go the distance.
“We had a wonderful last night. It was Delhi Waveriders’ first defeat of the tournament, and obviously we are very positive now. We need to go into semi-final with a positive momentum,” Wizards skipper Raghunath said.