Ipswich team's options to counter state league setback
HAVING lost two key players for Saturday night's state league duel, Western Pride head coach Reg Davani is wisely keeping his options close to his chest.
Pride is in a four-way football battle for top spot, motivating Davani to carefully choose who will replace suspended duo Will McFarlane and Gabby Hawash against Moreton Bay United.
"I don't want to give too much away,'' Davani said.
Dependable defender McFarlane received a red card in the 15th minute of last Saturday night's epic clash with Lions at the Briggs Road Sports Complex.
Hawash was also sent off in the final stage of the encounter, leaving Pride without two senior squad members tonight at Wolter Park.
However, Davani was confident the hard-working Pride squad could cover for two important omissions.
"The good thing with this group is it's quite a versatile group,'' Davani said.
"So I'm just looking at the range of options that we have.
"There's not just one player that can play any certain area. They can play two, three key positions.
"I just want to make sure that I cover all bases and all options in terms of how we play this weekend.
"And the good thing is the players are all putting their hand up.''
Davani said a welcome boost was the looming return of captain Jesse Rigby from ankle ligament damage.
"That's another positive as well. My captain is back in full training,'' Davani said.
"Jesse is back on the cards.''
Although losing 3-2 to Lions last weekend, Davani was proud of how his team stuck to the task without McFarlane and Hawash.
"The team just showed great character again despite the obstacles that we faced,'' he said.
"The lads at the moment are doing really well in terms of their attitude and their character.
"As a coach, I just admire that. . . that's a hard thing to come by.
"That sort of stuff, as the season closes down, is going to help get the team through.''
Olympic have regained the National Premier Leagues competition lead on 43 points, from Pride, Lions and Moreton Bay United (all on 42).
However, Pride are well placed to control their own destiny having played the top group of sides in recent weeks.
"I think the other big sides are all going to face each other as well,'' the former Ipswich Grammar School student said.
"For us, we just have to stay focused and just worry about ourselves.''
Meanwhile, after last weekend's terrific team effort against Lions, acting Pride captain Cam Crestani praised tireless attacker Joe Duckworth for his classy display.
"I know he got four goals last week and he's starting to reap the rewards but you look at the stats and the amount of assists he's got. He's unbelievable,'' Crestani said.
"And it's silly for an A-League club not to pick him up.''
Asked whether the Lions were Pride's toughest opponents so far, Crestani rated the Richlands-based team second to another state league rival Olympic.
"They (Lions) have a good defensive record but we showed we can score goals against them with 10 men,'' Crestani said.
"It just goes to show they do leak goals and I still have Olympic probably at the pinnacle. But they (Lions) are a close second.
"I place ourselves at the top of that list.''
Pride are keen to regain top spot after holding second on goal difference.
"I had a chat to the boys at the end of the game and I said the standards that we showed with 10 men showed that we are the pinnacle of this competition,'' Crestani said.
Western Pride juniors Khelistar Kumitau and Georgia Rink have been chosen in state sides for this month's Girls National Youth Championships in Coffs Harbour.
Kheli was chosen in the under 13 Queensland side, with Georgia named in the under 15 team.
They will represent Queens-land at the national youth titles featuring more than 330 of Australia's best young female footballers.
The tournament is Football Federation Australia's primary national football competition for 14 and 15 years girls.
Twenty-one teams representing each state in 14 and 15 years divisions will play in the competition from July 16-20.
NPL: Saturday (6pm) - Western Pride v Moreton Bay United at Wolter Park.