By Casey OÇonnor
Top team Stanthorpe United will face off against Willowburn on Sunday in the Toowoomba Premier League top of the table clash as all clubs in the competition continue to reel from the withdrawal of third placed Gatton Redbacks earlier this week.
United and Willowburn, both coming off byes, sit first and second place after 16 rounds and have won a game each in after their two previous clashes.
The Redbacks won their first encounter back in round eight tow-one. Willowburn, who are currently a point behind them on the ladder, evened the ledger with a one-nil win in round 12.
The decision of the Gatton Redbacks, who had been sitting right behind Willowburn on the ladder, means United and Willowburn head into the final fixture match of the regular season knowing they are now guaranteed to finish first and second with the outcome of Sunday’s game deciding in which order.
A surprise one-all draw for Rockville in their game last week against Wanderers may have cost the team an opportunity to win the league or at least finish in second spot.
They currently sit in fifth position on 26 points and are almost guaranteed three points in their final game against cellar dwellers Highfields.
St Albans (27) has a bye this round and will not improve their position on the table.
With the pressure of a third place finish for either of the top two teams no longer a concern, Sunday’s game could provide both teams an opportunity to rest players however the United players believe the President Cup Trophy and the opportunity to finish on top of the table in their first year in the competition is a prize worth fighting for.
“Any trophy would be a fantastic achievement for the players after the season they have had” assistant coach Steve McEvoy said.
“I know the boys would be keen to win some silverware, but as coaches we have to ensure we get the balance right and prioritise what we believe is the main objective.”
McEvoy said that although it would be great to win the President’s Cup, the opportunity to rest players and focus on the major semi-final and book a grand final spot is very tempting.
It is common knowledge that the Redbacks player stocks are getting low.
Andrew Crestani, Ben Rametta, Thomas Nash, Brad Thompson, Jared Hitchener and Josh Crestani are all struggling with injury and in doubt for this weekend’s game.
If rested, another week off could be a blessing for one or two of these players.
The game against Willowburn on Sunday is indeed an intriguing matchup. The teams could potentially meet three times in the next four weeks. If that is the case then whoever wins the final match of the season will be the team that is remembered most by fans and the history books.
The make-up of the United Redbacks team for this week’s clash will be decided after fitness tests are completed later this week.
CURRENT PERMIER LEAGUE TABLE
Team P W L D F A GD PTS
Stanthorpe United Redbacks 14 10 4 0 35 13 22 30
Willowburn 14 9 3 2 35 14 21 29
Gatton Redbacks (withdrawn) 15 8 3 4 35 14 21 28
St Albans 15 9 6 0 48 35 13 27
Rockville 14 8 4 2 23 20 03 26
USQFC 14 6 8 0 32 34 -2 18
West Wanderers 14 4 8 2 27 27 0 14
Hawks 8 1 6 1 13 32 -19 4
Highfields 14 0 13 1 9 68 -59 1