The Ulster Elks and Ards will both be without key players in tomorrow’s crunch clash at the Co Down venue but the Jordanstown side are more seriously depleted.
They will be without internationals Megan Frazer and Shirley McCay while Ards must do without Chloe Brown as the trio are in Spain on Ireland duty.
The Elks currently sit on top of the table, four points ahead of Ards who have two games in hand.
The first league game between the teams ended in a 2-2 draw but Ards might just have the edge tomorrow with just one absentee.
The Elks extended their lead at the top after defeating Portadown 6-1 at UUJ during the week and a draw wouldn’t be a bad result for Ards tomorrow in the circumstances.
“It’s a tough game to call as both teams will be without key people but, as ever, we will be concentrating on getting our game plan right and playing to it,” said Ards manager Phil Mills.
“It’s too early for the game to be called a ‘must-win’ but we’ll certainly be looking to continue our winning streak and take the three points.”
The Elks had too much fire power for the Ports on Wednesday and they remain rooted to the bottom of the table despite a battling display, especially in the first half.
“We were pleased to get the win particularly as we dropped two points from a draw with them last season which ultimately cost us an automatic place in the Irish Hockey League,” said coach Lee.
The Elks got off to a great start when Laura McAlpine deflected home a penalty corner and McCay made it 2-0 from another set piece nine minutes later.
Portadown pulled a goal back in the 15th minute when leading scorer Leanne Cassells converted a corner to give her side fresh hope.
But Dawn Axon’s reverse stick shot eight minutes later gave the Elks a two goal cushion at the break.
The home team added further goals in the final 12 minutes through Emily Bowker, Louise Wright and Kirstie Lammey to run out emphatic winners and set up tomorrow’s intriguing encounter.
In Wednesday night’s other game Paige Brown’s second minute goal was enough to give a depleted Queen’s side a 1-0 win at Lurgan.
Queen’s defended well as under a lot of Lurgan pressure in the second half but the students can now relax.
They are virtually certain of avoiding a relegation off as may be the plight of the team that finishes ninth as there is still no news on next season’s format as the impasse surrounding the IHL continues.
Lurgan have a chance to make amends tonight when they entertain Lisnagarvey while champions Pegasus travel to Portadown tomorrow with Queen’s hosting Harlequins and Randalstown facing Ballymoney in the other Premier League matches.