By Rab Smith / asbpremiership.co.nz
DUNEDIN - Otago United’s resources have been stretched paper thin this week as coach Malcolm Fleming musters a side to face a resurgent Team Wellington at Tahuna Park on Sunday.
Wedding bells will keep striker Aaron Burgess out of the mix, team captain Tim Horner is suspended and absent for two Match Days overseas in Singapore.
There are further injury problems for Malcolm Fleming to consider with physio Vicki Clark working overtime with Phil Ruggles and Andy Coburn the biggest concerns for the home side.
New signing Matt Thomas who impressed in midfield is ‘unavailable’.
Coach Fleming remains defiant.
"We will still be competitive. I expect to field a strong starting eleven," Fleming said, "Its just that our bench may not have a huge amount of experience."
Fleming also wishes that the Otago Youth sides trip to Singapore had been scheduled for another time with Tim Horner coaching the side.
It will be Horner’s second trip, and the present National Youth League coach Richard Murray will also be going along, missing the derby between Otago and Canterbury in the National Youth League.
Otago has a strong record of Youth Development teams going abroad.
The prestigious Milk Cup tournament in Northern Ireland had senior coach Neil Mackenzie at the helm for almost ten years, and generated matches for Otago youngsters against the likes of Manchester United, Porto, Moscow Dynamo.
But now that commitment to youth development appears to be meeting Otago United's ASB Premiership playoff aspirations head-on with crucial matches looming before the holiday season kicks in.
Last season, Otago achieved its best ever results over Wellington with 2-0 and 3-1 wins that broke an 11 match winless drought over the Capital side.
Last week, Otago generated a hard nosed performance against Auckland City that earned coach Fleming’s first ABS Premiership competition point of the season.
Coach Stu Jacobs might pick four as his lucky number since his side has scored four goals or more against the Dunedin side in recent years, with chilling stats of eight matches producing five wins, one draw and two defeats.
But Wellington’s four points from four matches this season suggests Otago United can expect to exploit weaknesses as the visitors look to boost their playoff bid.
One player eager to scoop victory will be Team Wellington’s Karl Whalen who is poised to make his 100th ASB Premiership career appearance.
Whalen made his Team Wellington debut in season 2004-05 and has scored four goals for the capital franchise.
Team Wellington's Ryan Cain and Jamie O’Connor are absentees from the travelling squad, O’Connor still plagued with a hamstring issue.
Otago’s Paul Seaman will make his 85th national league appearance, and clearly, a lot will rest on the muscular midfielders ability to inspire his new club in the same style he achieved at Kiwitea Street last week.
Also in impressive form, Nathan Knox was Otago’s Man of the Match last week, and is burning in the miles, making support runs all over the park.
However Otago may be judged not on the performances of Seaman, Knox, Coburn, Tom Sadd, and keeper Adam Highfield, but on the form of emerging players such as Tom Connor who earned plaudits in defence last week, plus the ever improving Tristan Prattley, Anthony Hancock, Hayden Gunn, Morgan Day and Harley Rodeka.
Alistair RICKERBY, Morgan DAY, Harley RODEKA and Sam MEPHAM
Matt THOMAS (unavailable), Tim HORNER (suspended), Aaron BURGESS (getting married).
Jamie O'CONNOR (injured) and Ryan CAIN
Paul SEAMAN will make his 85th ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected. Nathan KNOX will make his 48th ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected.
Karl WHALEN will make his 100th ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected. WHALEN has scored four goals and made his Team Wellington debut in 2004-05 season. Michael EAGAR will make his 48th ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected.
Otago United enjoyed its best ever performances in matches with Team Wellington last season when they recorded back-to-back wins over their rivals for the first time in the history of the ASB Premiership. The 2-0 and 3-1 wins ended an eleven match run without a win over Team Wellington that stretched back to 2005.
Eight visits to Dunedin has produced five wins, one draw and two defeats for Team Wellington. Four of those wins saw Team Wellington score four goals or more in 5-1, 5-0, 5-0 and 4-2 victories. Team Wellington has only won one of its last four matches with Otago United, a 4-2 win in Dunedin in 2009.
ASB Premiership - Week 6
Sunday 28 November, 2010
1- Adam HIGHFIELD (GK)
1- Phil IMRAY (GK)
3- Tristan PRATTLEY
2- Scott ROBSON
5- Hayden GUNN
3- Jamie DUNCAN
6- Tom SADD
4- Michael EAGAR
7- Nathan KNOX
7- Wiremu PATRICK
8- Paul SEAMAN
10- Michael FIFII
9- Anthony HANCOCK
11- Andrew ABBA
10- Phil RUGGLES
13- Emiliano TADO
11- Andy COBURN
13- Karl WHALEN (C)
12- James REICHWIN
14- Hicham KAMRI
13- Alistair RICKERBY
17- Matthew WILLIAMS
16- Harley RODEKA
18- Darren CHERITON
18- Tom CONNOR
21- Pomare TE ANAU
22- Callum FLAWS
24- Tyler LISSETTE
23- Liam LOCKART
25- Lance RAMAEKERS (GK)
24- Sam MEPHAM
- one to be omitted