Echuca United may be playing at home tomorrow, but it will run out onto the field as the `away' side in its clash against Mulwala.By Geordie Cowan
Echuca United’s senior football team may be playing out of the away rooms tomorrow, but the Eagles will have plenty of home support when they take on Mulwala in the Murray Football League second semi-final at Echuca South Oval.
The top-of-the-table clash will determine one of the grand finalists — a berth both teams will be desperate to grasp.
Adding to United’s challenges, the team has not played for three weeks after a bye in the final round of the season before receiving the first week of finals off.
‘‘We spoke about having an extended period of time off without match fitness, so we’ve gone about combating it the best possible way we know how — purely just to work hard and gain our fitness that way,’’ Eagles coach Scott Beattie said.
‘‘We fully comprehend the situation we’re in and we know that we’ve got an eye on a big prize — a spot in the grand final — but it’s about making sure we did the things we needed to do.’’
Beattie said it was important his team focused on the simple things tomorrow.
‘‘We understand our opponent and the way they play, but we have to put enough scoreboard pressure on them and force them into making decisions that aren’t natural,’’ he said.
‘‘We have just got to be better for longer.
‘‘We are not going to re-invent the wheel because it’s finals, we will hone in on the really simple things that we do well.’’
Only 6 per cent separated the sides at the end of the regular season, with the Lions boasting the best offensive record, while the Eagles had the best defence.
‘‘It’s defence first, absolutely,’’ Beattie said.
‘‘We’ve got a real concerted effort to keep them to a minimal number on the scoreboard and we think that our offence is good and that we have a number of options to kick a score for us to win.
‘‘It was fantastic for us that we’ve conceded less than 1000 points over 18 games and to be the only team to do that.
‘‘It is not only a really good thing for the back six, but a credit to the midfield as well as put pressure on to help.’’
The Eagles will have the upper hand after defeating the Lions both times they played this year, including a 23-point result seven weeks ago when Priest brothers Rowan and Farran helped lead them to victory.
That game was also the last time Beattie took to the field and he is not assured a spot in the side.
‘‘After seven weeks out, I have to be confident in my body,’’ he said.
Guy Campbell will return to the side, while Daniel Cavallaro was rated a 50 per cent chance.
United will need to be wary of forwards Chase Strawhorn and Kyle Archibald, while Sean Robinson, Josh Slattery and Cameron Symes have also been in good form.
Playing at Rumbalara, the Eagles go into the match as favourite after winning by 52 points five weeks ago, while only two points separated the sides in round four.
United has won nine of its past 10 matches, including a 28-point win against Nathalia last week, while the Blues have lost two of their past five matches and narrowly defeated Moama by 11 points in its elimination final.
The match starts at 12.10pm.
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