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Beachside, the reigning Southern Premier League champions, host current leaders University at Sandown Park at 2.30pm today in what should be a close game despite the huge gap between the sides on the standings.

University lead with 40 points, whereas Beachside are fourth and a massive 14 points adrift.

“Beachside is always difficult at the Tropicana,” said University coach, Romilton Amaral. “Last week, Sam Sheppard was sent off and they ended up perishing 4-1 to Clarence.

“There are only five games left and everyone is trying to reach as many points as possible. Beachside and University are no different. This game can be the game to win the title for us. We started our campaign against Beachside and our journey towards the championship might finish here with them as well.

“Injuries and players’ trips have interfered a lot with selections at the end of this season and as a result we have promoted more three Under-20s players to our senior team.

“Team performance has dropped as a result of these changes but the youngsters are settling in and we are very happy with their progress. To play the SPL premiers will mean a lot to each one of them as they are fighting to guarantee a position into the main 11.

“Luke Huigsloot, the league top scorer, had two goals nullified last week. Therefore, he is very hungry and we hope that today can be his day. He is having a great season, he has trained well this week and chances are that he will net some goals.

“Aiden Jackson, John Buga, Peter Frank, Ronald John and Richard Depaoli are all starting against Beachside. As you can see, our team will be quite different, full of new faces. But, at the same time, they are very competitive.

“We all looking forward to John Buga’s debut in the seniors as he is quite an exceptional player. He is just 17 years old but already a well-established player in the Reserves League, where he is the second top scorer so far.”

In a bottom-of-the-table clash at North Warrane at 2.30pm today, second-last Nelson Eastern Suburbs host last-placed New Town Eagles.

“Once again, we have a challenge this week, but I think the boys are up and about after two decent showings,” New Town coach, Rodney Bones, said.

“I have started to transition some of our under-20s through the squad and these boys are certainly giving us a new lease of life.

“Nelson have had some really positive results lately, as well, so I am expecting a great game although being the bottom of the table clash. Michael usually has the boys playing an attacking brand and I look forward to this week to show how we have progressed as well.”

Nelson will be without key midfielder Roland Stern, who has re-torn his ACL and will miss the rest of the season.

“It’s been a frustrating season for injuries and losing another good quality senior player is a blow, as we missed Roland’s ability to create scoring opportunities in last week’s 2-0 loss to Taroona,” said Nelson Eastern Suburbs coach, Michael Roach.

“With five matches left, it’s just a case for us of finishing off the season as well as we can. We’ve generally been pretty competitive in most of our games since the first round, but lack of goal scoring has made it difficult for us to get points.

“Our leading scorer is midfielder Andrew Reason with three goals, though we’re hopeful that experienced forward Luke Wallace, who is back fit after missing most of the season, can start to find the net.

“It’s a good chance for three points versus the Eagles this week, but they will be physical and desperate and they can score goals breaking forward, as they’ve shown over the last few weeks.

“If we are going to win, we’ll need to control possession and show some patience moving from midfield to attack to create good scoring opportunities. Then, we need our forwards to finish off the chances.”

At 6pm today at Wentworth Park, second-placed Clarence United entertain third-ranked Taroona.

Both sides have 28 points, 12 less than leaders University, and only goal-difference favours Clarence.

SOUTHERN PREMIER LEAGUE (As at 19 July 2014)

TEAM

P

W

D

L

F

A

Pts

University

15

13

1

1

61

21

40

Clarence United

15

9

1

5

54

14

28

Taroona

15

9

1

5

39

24

28

Beachside

15

8

2

5

44

32

26

Nelson Eastern Subs

15

2

1

12

10

56

7

New Town Eagles

15

1

0

14

16

77

3