By Kelvin Wescombe / asbpremiership.co.nz
PALMERSTON NORTH - Pride and an elusive first goal of the season is what YoungHeart Manawatu will be playing for when as they face wooden spoon rivals Otago United at Memorial Park on Sunday.
With only two goals and a single point separating the two sides, this Sunday's clash could see YoungHeart Manawatu leapfrog Otago United into seventh place on the ASB Premiership table if they can find the back of the net for the first time this season - and and an accompaning first win.
This season has been a forgettable one for YoungHeart Manawatu so far. Winless, goal-less and camped at the bottom of the ASB Premiership table since the start of the season, they are now faced with another challenge - fielding a side without two of their most experienced players.
Both Colin Falvey and Nathan Cooksley were shown the red card in last weekends' 3-0 loss to Waikato FC, and now YoungHeart Manawatu coach Bob Sova faces the unenviable task of replacing these two starters.
“We've got a few injury problems, obviously”, said Sova. “We have still got three, maybe four lads out this weekend, and of course there's (Colin) Falvey and (Nathan) Cooksley, so we're actually quite depleted.”
However Sova is not looking at this dilemma as an excuse and neither are the players.
“In all honesty I think every team goes through that, it's not really an excuse," Sova sad.
With the player shuffle and absence of key players, YoungHeart are still optimistic about their chances.
”The players are really upbeat, which is actually quite surprising if you look at the table. It looks pretty ugly in my mind, but you know, we were a little hard done in Waikato, so I think we are looking at this week as a chance to get our feet back on track”, said Sova, “The guys are not too despondent, their thinking it's still early days in the competition and that they can actually turn things around”.
Coach Sova also feels his teams' gameplay is evolving, and improving week to week.
“We're starting to create a bit more now, which we weren't initially. We were a bit underdone in terms of preseason fitness and conditioning. That's quite good, so I think from a fitness point of view we are as good as any other team”, said Sova. “But it's really what we do with the ball. To actually get the win we've obviously got to score. We created chances against Waikato that we missed out on, and I feel if we can get it right we can put the ball in the back of the net”.
Otago United have had a similar run in the Premiership this season, but salvaged their one and only point from a gutsy goal-less draw against Auckland City in Week 5.
Otago have also felt the pressures of player availability this season, and like Manawatu have had to rely heavily on their younger players to front up and perform when senior players have been injured or unavailable.
Most notable exclusion for Otago United is captain Tim Horner, whose commitments to the Otago U-15 squad saw him miss last weeks' loss against Team Wellington, as well as missing the upcoming game against Manawatu.
With Otago United narrowly in out on the playoffs last season, the pressure will be on Malcolm Fleming and his team to earn victory and restore their own playoff hopes for this season.
Morgan DAY and captain Tim HORNER is also named in the squad.
Colin FALVEY and Nathan COOKSLEY
Jono STEELE joins the squad with former Otago United defender Colin FALVEY and Nathan COOKSLEY both suspended after red cards earned againt Waikato FC. Graham CRAVEN is still on the injured list.
Morgan DAY returns to the squad alongside with Tim HORNER's name included despite his absence with Otago youth team in Singapore.
Last season was the first time Manawatu failed to register a win over Otago United during an ASB Premiership season. They lost 0-3 at Memorial Park and drew 1-1 in Dunedin. That 3-0 defeat was the first time Manawatu had ever lost to Otago United on home turf. The home record reads five wins, one draw and one defeat in seven home matches with the visitors.
Otago United has registered just three wins in sixteen previous matches with Manawatu in the ASB Premiership. The first win was a 2-1 triumph posted in 2004-05 season in Dunedin. They won again in 2008 by 1-0 in Dunedin before last season’s emphatic 3-0 victory in Palmerston North, also Otago United’s biggest victory over Manawatu.
ASB Premiership Week 7
Saturday 5 December, 2010
1- Matt BORREN (GK)
1- Adam HIGHFIELD (GK)
2- Nobuyoshi ISHI
3- Tristan PRATTLEY
3- Matt SMITH
5- Hayden GUNN
5- Josh CHETTLEBURGH
6- Tom SADD
6- Matt KENNEDY
7- Nathan KNOX
7- Jason HAYNE
8- Paul SEAMAN
8- Jono STEELE
9- Anthony HANCOCK
9- Michael WHITE
10- Phil RUGGLES
10- Adam COWAN (C)
11- Andy COBURN
11- Hamish MacKAY
12- James REICHWIN
14- Michael McKNIGHT
13- Alistair RICKERBY
16- Michael FRASER
15- Morgan DAY
18- Dale HIGHAM
16- Harley RODEKA
19- Ben WILKES (GK)
17- Tim HORNER (C)
20- Willie HODGE
18- Tom CONNOR
21- Jared BLOOR
22- Callum FLAWS
22- Greg O'CONNOR
23- Liam LOCKART (GK)
24- Sam MEPHAM
- Two to be omitted