Finals fever two teams, two leagues, looking good for September

By Andrew Johnston

IT’S been a long time since one — let alone two — local sides have been in this good a shape at the midway point of the season.

Yet, the twin towns have a genuine claim to producing the best football in the Goulburn Valley.

Echuca United, led by a dominant forward in Josh Mellington, have blown away even the most staunch United fan’s expectations, sitting pretty on the top of the ladder for the Murray League.

Mere minutes away, the resurgence of the bottle green continues as the Murray Bombers stake their claim as Kyabram’s only true challenger to the GVL crown.

Echuca took out reigning premiers Shepparton on Sunday afternoon, going some way to erase their Deakin Reserve demons as they look ahead to a certain finals berth.

Yet this week presents a different challenge altogether.

On the road they meet Mansfield, a side that has not lived up to expectations so far this season.

A round four victory against Benalla shows the Eagles can do damage against good sides when they are on.

Echuca, unlike their performance against the Bears, will need to fix a lot of areas of their game, especially their goal kicking.

Against the Bears they couldn’t hit the side of a barn at times, though they were able to do enough.

Enough won’t satisfy against a side desperate to make an impact.

And Echuca United cannot rest on a lower opposition either.

If you solely look at the ladder, you would expect United to wipe the floor with Congupna on Saturday — but their 84-point drubbing of Cobram this past Saturday suggests otherwise.

The Eagles are by no means bulletproof, and showed last year they have the ability to slip out of form at stages where they must capitalise.

If they rest on their laurels this week, they could cop an embarrassing loss.

Right now, the two Echuca sides are top dogs of the Valley’s football.

But with Nathalia breathing down the Eagles’ necks, and Kyabram still the white whale for the Murray Bombers, there’s still a long way to go.