Raiders left to rue NRL close encounters

Canberra are on the cusp of writing themselves into the NRL record books for the wrong reason but claim it’s proof a top-four finish is achievable next year.

The Raiders have lost five games by two points or less during the season, all of which have been at home.

Should Canberra lose another game by that margin, they will equal the 2007 Cronulla side’s record for most losses by under two points in a season.

Of more concern for coach Ricky Stuart is his side’s home form, winning just two of 11 at GIO Stadium – the club’s worst ever home record for a season.

While the statistics don’t make for pretty reading, captain Jarrod Croker says it’s evidence they’re not far off being a finals team.

Had they turned all five of their one or two-point losses into wins they would be sitting in the top four.

“(Top four) is definitely achievable,” Croker said.

“We know we can win those games, we’ve been in positions to win those games.

“Unfortunately we haven’t won them. The ladder doesn’t show the season we’ve had, especially at home.”

Monday night’s clash with Penrith will be long-serving prop David Shillington’s final game at GIO Stadium in Canberra colours before he moves to the Gold Coast next year.

For the Panthers’ it’s a chance to finish off a disappointing season on a positive note after losing six of their last seven, including a lacklustre display in their 19-12 loss to St George Illawarra last round.

They have been battered by key injuries, particularly in their halves, using 10 different playmaker pairings over the course of the season.

Coach Ivan Cleary admits they have missed key players when the game has been on the line.

“We’ve just got to get those key moments a little bit better and part of that’s lacking a little bit of class from time to time,” Cleary said.

“You can’t question the effort and it’s been there again this week.”

STATS THAT MATTER

* The Raiders have won three games since round 9 and are on a four-game losing streak.

* Ricky Stuart’s side have conceded more metres (1515m per game) than any other side this season.

* On the road, the Panthers have been ordinary, winning two from 11.

* Penrith’s Jeremy Latimore will make his 100th NRL appearance, having made his debut for Parramatta in 2009.

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