By Bob Peace / asbpremiership.co.nz
AUCKLAND - Waitakere United will defend an impressive home record when they take on Canterbury United at Fred Taylor Park this weekend.
Since Neil Emblen took over as coach at the start of last season the West Aucklanders have made the Fred an impregnable fortress.
There have been last-minute escapes, drawn games and in the O-League final against Hekari United a 2-1 win that turned into an aggregate loss. This season the home form has been patchy but the record holds firm.
Emblen was well pleased with last week’s 4-0 win away to Manawatu and he hopes that form will transfer to the Fred.
“We haven’t been at our best at home,” he said. “Away from home we’ve been more relaxed and it’s shown in the way we’ve played.
“Hopefully our position on the table will give the lads the freedom to play a bit and show the same form back home.”
One incentive will be the chance to consolidate the lead they have in the ASB Premiership. A win over Canterbury will allow them to retain a five-point margin whatever happens while they are away in New Caledonia on O-League business next week. A loss could see them in second place on their return.
Emblen does not underestimate the challenge Canterbury will pose. Waitakere won the Grand Final last season but against a team reduced to 10 men after 37 minutes when Paul Dirou was sent off for a high foot.
Earlier in the season Canterbury had beaten Waitakere soundly in a league game in Christchurch.
“We’re similar in many ways this season,” said Emblen. “We’re pretty consistent. We’ve got most of our squad back and we’ve added a couple of good signings.”
That mix has kept Emblen largely off the playing field – “Last week I didn’t even strip. It was Neil Sykes and a group of teenagers on the bench.”
Canterbury have yet to be beaten this season, but they come off a scoreless home draw against Hawkes Bay.
That result needs to be put into perspective. The southerners played much of the second spell with 10 men when Joe Murray was sent off for his second yellow card in the 57th minute.
Coach Keith Braithwaite, who worked miracles to take Canterbury from cellar-dwellers to the Grand Final, reckons his team were galvanised into action by the sending-off and played better with 10 men.
Canterbury will be without striker Russell Kamo but any team that contains Aaron Clapham, surely a better bet than some of the over-rated imports with the Phoenix, is a potential threat. That West Auckland fortress better be strong.
Liam LITTLE, Zane SOLE returns from Wellington Phoenix 'A' duties.
Darren OVERTON, Chris SINCLAIR and Tane GENT
Andy RALPH (fractured finger 5 weeks), Luiz del MONTE (hamstring 2 weeks) and Martin BULLOCK (medial ligaments 7 weeks). Jack HOBSON-McVEIGH and Jonno ROSS are omitted.
Russell KAMO (unavailable), Joe MURRAY (suspended) and Coey TURIPA (omitted)
Michael GWYTHER will make his 50th ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected. Jason ROWLEY will make his 49th ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected.
Dan TERRIS will make his 92nd ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected. Former All White Glen COLLINS will make his 83rd ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected.
Last season’s 0-4 defeat to Canterbury United ended a six match unbeaten run against the Cantabs that began in 2007. Last season’s fixture ended in a 1-0 win for Waitakere thanks to a goal by former Canterbury striker Brent FISHER. Waitakere United’s biggest ever win over Canterbury United was a 9-1 thrashing posted in 2007-08 season.
Canterbury United has only won once in six visits to Waitakere United, a 2-1 win posted in 2005-06 season. Matches between the two teams in Auckland have been close run affairs with scores of 0-1, 0-1 and 1-2 all in favour of Waitakere United punctuated by a 1-1 draw in 2006.
ASB Premiership - Week 6
Saturday 27 November, 2010
1- Danny ROBINSON (GK)
1- Tom BATTY (GK)
2- Jason ROWLEY
2- Dan TERRIS (C)
3- Aaron SCOTT
3- Nick WORTELBOER
4- Tim MYERS
4- Gareth ROWE
6- Jack PELTER
5- Tom SCHWARZ
8- Chris BALE
6- Glen COLLINS
10- Allan PEARCE
7- Aaron CLAPHAM
11- Neil SYKES
8- Darren OVERTON
12- Roy KRISHNA
12- Gagame FENI
13- Michael GWYTHER
13- Garry McDERMOTT
16- Neil EMBLEN
15- Danny ATTWELL
17- Jake BUTLER
17- Ryan TIPPETT
18- Zane SOLE
18- Chris SINCLAIR (GK)
19- Dakota LUCAS
23- Andrew BARTON
20- Ryan de VRIES
25- Andy PITMAN
22- Liam LITTLE (GK)
25- Sean LOVEMORE