No matter the result of its final round clash with Nunawading City, Murray United cannot be dislodged from the top five of the NPL 2 east competition.
The Border outfit took care of Springvale, 2-1, on the road on Saturday, capping off an excellent away record of six wins, three draws and five losses to move to 36 points with one round to play.
Incredibly, Murray has captured the same amount of points this season than its first two years combined (14 points in 2016 and 22 points in 2015), showing just how far the young club has come in a short space of time.
Top-three is still a possibility as well, with Melbourne City and Goulburn Valley Suns just above them on 38 points in third and fourth, respectively.
“We’ve still obviously got stuff to fight for, but the fact we’ve guaranteed a top-five finish is a huge achievement,” Murray coach James Coutts said.
“We’ll prepare this week for Nunawading, but we’ve had a great season as a club in terms of the challenges we’ve had and how we’ve overcome them.
“I’ve really got a lot of respect for them as players because they’ve given everything.
“They’ve been through hard times over the last couple of years, but to continue to do what they do week in, week out, with the attitude they’ve all shown to fight for the cause is great.
“It’s been a great year and these boys deserve a huge amount of credit for it.”
Gonzalo Freddi finally got some reward for his effort in recent weeks by scoring both of Murray’s goals in the win over Springvale.
Freddi opened the scoring in just the third minute, before Springvale responded in the 24th minute to keep it interesting.
Murray wrestled the lead back 10 minutes later after Freddi followed up Archie Thompson’s strike to make it 2-1.
A scrappy second half saw no further goals, as Murray hung on for a gutsy victory.
Coutts admitted his side played a better brand of football last weekend against Moreland Zebras, but was pleased with the effort from the players.
“I put up a list of games before we started like the Sunshine game, Richmond away, Dandenong City away and games where we’d gotten points and results, and it was an attitude thing,” he said.
“When we have the work rate, the hunger and desire, we’re hard to play against with the quality we have.”
Coutts admitted Freddi was terrific again.
“He worked extremely hard as he always does, every game he gives absolutely everything,” Coutts said.
“He’s been hard on himself and is very big on improving and shows the right attitude and application every week and wants to do extra.
“I’m delighted he got the two goals.
“I challenged the attacking boys early and said we’ve got to take chances now, we can’t keep getting chance after chance and not taking them, and they responded well.”
“It was a great win in terms of the character shown and we had quite a few struggling with sickness this week that weren’t able to train.”
The ladder after round 27 is: Dandenong Thunder 58, Dandenong City 50, Melbourne City 38, Goulburn Valley Suns 38, Murray United 36, Springvale 32, Box Hill United 31, Eastern Lions 30, Nunawading City 29, Richmond 25.