With their title hopes dashed, W-League talent Liana Danaskos is preparing to return in a pre-finals boost for the Illawarra Stingrays.
A creative midfield talent, coach Scott Chipperfield said he will take a cautious approach to the Western Sydney Wanderers player's comeback from injury.
"We'll work with the physios about how much time Liana can handle at this stage, but she's a valuable player with a month before finals," he said. The Stingrays were held to a scoreless draw by Manly United on Sunday, after the game was shifted from JJ Kelly Park to the synthcetic pitch at Ian McLennan Park due to last week's rain.
And after scoring 10 in the past fortnight, the goals dried up, meaning Illawarra are now eight points adrift of leaders Sydney Uni with four rounds to play.
However the Stingrays are seven points above sixth-placed Macarthur, meaning their finals place is all but assured.
They will now chase a top three spot to offer them some insurance in the finals campaign, but face a daunting month ahead against some of their playoff rivals.
Crucially, they also have three of their remaining games at home.
On Sunday, the Stingrays take on Blacktown Spartans (fifth), then Northern Tigers (second) and Football NSW Institute (ninth), before travelling to take on Sydney Unversity in a bid to spoil their likely title party.
"We've just got to push for a top three finish now, the title is out of the picture, but we're pretty much assured of a finals spot," Chipperfield said.
While you're with us the Illawarra is offering sport readers 20% off an annual digital subscription. Sign up to stay up to date with all the local sports you love for only $3 a week. Terms and conditions apply.