MFC in the box seat
BOTH teams will be missing key players when champion Murwillumbah FC and Tweed United meet in the second leg of their Gold Coast Soccer first division major semi-final series at Arkinstall Park this afternoon.
MFC, which won 2-1 in last week's first leg at Murwillumbah, will be without the brilliant Dane Miller and United will run on without a classy midfielder in Matt Noble.
Whereas Miller will be available for the rest of the finals, United will have to soldier on without Noble, who has returned to England.
The stage is set for an intriguing match, which kicks off at 3pm in front of what will be a huge crowd of fans from both clubs.
With away goals counting double, MFC is probably in the box seat to take the major semi-final and advance to the grand final.
However, there hasn't been much between these teams all year and the result could go either way.
"The loss of Dane is a blow to us but on the other hand we have been bolstered by the return from injury after a long layoff of our goalie, Nathan Wilson," MFC captain-coach David Lonie said.
Wilson had his first hit-out for six weeks in the first leg and, while a bit rusty on the ground, was his usual confident self when the ball was in the air.
The young giant - he stands 198cm and weighs 100kg - dominated whenever the ball came in high and he will derive a lot of benefit from his first game back.
Lonie, who has been leading by example on the paddock, will slot Kurt Buchanan into the midfield to cover for Miller and Sam Reynolds, who played well during a second-half stint last week, will be included in the run-on side.
The loss of Noble provides United coach Dennis Dodd with the opportunity to give exciting 17-year-old Daniel Leslie a run in the backline.
David Lonie (c), Kurt Buchanan, Simon Hercombe, Nathan Wilson, Blake Gilmore, Sam Reynolds, Josh Boag, Adam Rogers, Keanu Sparkes-Young, Jared Lee, Brent Malone. Bench: Bryce Ruthven, Brent McLoy.
Taylor Deveny, Jai O'Hara, Michael Gardner, Josh Foster, Michael Kolovos (c), Daniel Leslie, Adam Karlos, Rob Dickinson, Tait Burns, Alex Thelwall, Josh Taylor.