Preview: North Queensland v Gold Coast United
The Hyundai A-League's new boys round their inaugural seasons off with a clash at Dairy Farmers Stadium on Saturday night, with Gold Coast needing a victory if it is any hope of making the top two.
Date: Saturday February 13 Kick-off: 8:00pm AEST, 9:00pm AEDT Venue: Dairy Farmers Stadium, Townsville
Head-to-head Played 2: Wins: Gold Coast United 1, North Queensland Fury 1, Draws: 0
Previous Meeting Gold Coast United 0, North Queensland Fury 2, Skilled Park, October 2009
Past five matches: North Queensland Fury Round 22: Central Coast Mariners 1, North Queensland Fury 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 23: Wellington Phoenix 3, North Queensland Fury 0, Westpac Stadium Round 24: North Queensland Fury 1, Brisbane Roar 1, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 25: North Queensland Fury 2, Newcastle Jets 1, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 26: Melbourne Victory 2, North Queensland Fury 0, Etihad Stadium
Gold Coast: Round 19: Gold Coast United 2, Newcastle Jets 0, Skilled Park Round 23: Sydney FC 0, Gold Coast United 1, Sydney Football Stadium Round 24: Central Coast Mariners 1, Gold Coast United 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 25: Gold Coast United 1, Melbourne Victory 0, Skilled Park Round 26: Gold Coast United 0, Wellington Phoenix 1, Skilled Park
Analysis: The Hyundai A-League's new boys round their inaugural seasons off with a clash at Dairy Farmers Stadium on Saturday night, with Gold Coast needing a victory if it is any hope of making the top two.
The Fury, whose prospects of making the finals were ended at the hands of Melbourne last week, this gives it a chance to ensure it doesn't collect the wooden spoon in its first season, with a spot as high as seventh in the offing should they get the right result.
The debut seasons of these two sides have been contrasting, with Gold Coast starting in fantastic form, while the Fury battled, and when they slumped to a 5-0 loss to United early in the season, there was a concern they may struggle to win a game. But the tide turned and about the same time the Fury started winning games, Gold Coast started to struggle. They even notched a 2-0 win over Gold Coast in October.
By season's end, United have turned things around and are destined to play a major role in the finals, while the Fury have fallen short, but have still improved greatly. That improvement is based on a strong home record, with four wins and a draw from their past five at Dairy Farmers Stadium.
A look at the advantage, Wellington has built at its home ground in recent seasons will tell Ian Ferguson of the importance of maintaining a fortress at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Visiting sides clearly don't enjoy the humidity of Townsville, and while the season may be all but over, Ferguson will hope to maintain that strong record against Miron Bleiberg's men.
Both sides put in decidedly flat performances last week, with the Fury offering little against Melbourne, while Gold Coast lost its chance of winning the Premiers' Plate with a lacklustre 1-0 loss to Wellington.
That was Gold Coast's first loss in eight weeks, and Bleiberg will be hoping that was just a slip-up in the club's march to the finals, but their recent away from reads one win from their past six road trips. The best position the club can finish is second, but if Sydney wins on Sunday, then they will finish third regardless of what they do in this game.
Tahj Minniecon returns from a thigh injury for this match, while Matt Osman and James Brown have been included in an extended squad.
North Queensland's prospects of getting something out of this game have been boosted by the inclusion of Dyron Daal and Ufuk Talay. Daal has been in excellent form late in the season, while Talay's composure in the middle of the park was missed against Melbourne last week. Jack Hingert and John Tambouras make way.
With Gold Coast desperate to win to keep its hopes of second place alive, you can expect Fury to do plenty of defending here. But you can't rule out them spoiling the party with a goal on the break, putting the pressure back on the visitors.