By Bob Pearce asbpremiership.co.nz
AUCKLAND - Auckland City coach Aaron McFarland has good reason to dispel any complacency in his team ahead of their clash with lowly-placed Otago United at Kiwitea St on Sunday.
He spent most of his playing career in the Deep South and has great respect for the fighting spirit of sports teams from the area.
"The mentality down there breeds self-belief and they relish their underdog status," he said. "You can't underestimate their passion and we certainly won't be taking them lightly."
McFarland and co-coach Ramon Tribulietx were buoyed by the 1-1 draw in their O-League fixture with Waitakere United last weekend, a result that dispelled some of the doubts the Auckland fans had after their team had been beaten 3-1 at home by the Westies in the ASB Premiership.
But McFarland believes results are not always indicative of performance. He didn't think that defeat was as bad as some thought, but he rated the draw as an indication of more consistency and elimination of some of the mistakes that proved costly.
Still Auckland are sitting in fourth place on the table and cannot afford any more slip-ups at this stage of the competition.
Gone with injury for the first part of the season is the tricky Luis Corrales but David Mulligan is a possible starter after missing the O-League game.
In the absence of Mulligan, Stu Kelly has stepped into the role of midfield creator and goal threat with freekicks.
Last season Otago played a scoreless draw with Auckland in Dunedin but were punished 5-0 at Kiwitea St, with four of the goals coming in the last 15 minutes when the southerners wilted in the northern heat.
McFarland can recall another 5-0 score-line with mixed feelings. In 1998 he was in a Dunedin Technical team beaten by that margin in the Chatham Cup final against Central United - the parent club of Auckland City.
Otago are certainly not the easy-beats they were two seasons ago. Last season they went very close to making the playoffs under new coach Malcolm Fleming. He is disappointed by the start this time but buoyed by the performance in a 3-2 loss to Hawkes Bay.
"We were unlucky last week," he said. "We certainly did enough to get some points. We've been good coming forward but we need to work on our defence."
New to Aucklanders will be Phil Ruggles, a 27-year-old striker signed from Bromley in England. But they are well acquainted with rugged midfielder Paul Seaman, who has had spells with both Waitakere and Auckland.
Seaman struggled with a calf strain in the opening game but was a force against Hawkes Bay with a goal in the second spell that put Otago briefly ahead.
Auckland has been enjoying some early summer heat, which shows no sign of abating. Otago would be well advised to pack their water bottles if they want to avoid another late-game slump in Sandringham's soccer sauna.
Stuart KELLY and Daniel MORGAN drafted into the squad.
Andy COBURN faces a late fitness test before the final sixteen player squad is named.
Luis CORRALES is missing from action due to a knee strain.
Morgan DAY is left out of the squad.
Ian HOGG will make his 60th ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected. Stu KELLY will make his 85th ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected. KELLY has scored 21 career goals.
Nathan KNOX will make his 47th ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected. KNOX has scored eleven career goals. Paul SEAMAN will make his 84th ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected. SEAMAN has scored twelve career goals.
Auckland City are undefeated in their last ten matches with Otago United with a record of eight wins and two draws. Auckland City has lost only twice to Otago United both 0-1 defeats occurred on home ground in 2004-05 and 2005-06 season.
Otago United has not won a match over Auckland City away from home since 2006. Otago Unitedís heaviest defeat to Auckland City happened last season when the visitors were soundly beaten 5-0.
ASB Premiership - Week Five
Kiwitea Street, Auckland
Sunday 21 November, 2010
1- Jacob SPOONLEY (GK)
1- Adam HIGHFIELD (GK)
2- Angel BERLANGA
3- Tristan PRATTLEY
3- Ian HOGG
4- Matt THOMAS
4- Sam CAMPBELL
5- Hayden GUNN
5- Phil EDINGTON
6- Tom SADD
6- Stuart KELLY
7- Nathan KNOX
7- James PRITCHETT
8- Paul SEAMAN
8- David MULLIGAN
9- Anthony HANCOCK
11- Daniel KOPRIVCIC
10- Phil RUGGLES
12- Matthew UPTON (GK)
11- Andy COBURN
13- Alex FENERIDIS
12- James REICHWIN
14- Adam DICKINSON
16- Harley RODEKA
17- Adam McGEORGE
17- Tim HORNER
19- Daniel MORGAN
18- Tom CONNOR
23- Adam THOMAS
22- Cam BURNS (GK)
26- Aaron BAWDEKAR
23- Liam LOCKART
24- Matt BROOK
- One to be omitted