By Ian Anderson
HAMILTON - Waikato FC coach Willy Gerdsen continues to insist his side ``is a work in progress''.
Saturday's home match against Waitakere City should provide a strong gauge of just how far they've come this season.
After five games it would be fair to label them as this season's surprise package, with two wins and and a draw leaving them in fourth spot ahead of Team Wellington on goal difference.
Now recognised as genuine playoff contenders, Willy Gerdsen's men have the chance to make a big noise against the league leaders at Hamilton's Fred Jones Park.
Gerdsen as usual is treading cautiously though.
"They're not unbeaten for a reason,'' Gerdsen said
"They've scored the most goals and conceded the least. So this really is a big one for us.''
However, Gerdsen doesn't want his side to go into its shell.
"We can't afford to sit back we will get punished. They have such gamebreakers like Roy Krishna and Luiz del Monte.
It's another step for us, hopefully in the right direction. We're a work in progress but hopefully we will get something out of the game.''
His opposite Neil Emblen expects the encounter to "be a ding-dong battle''.
"Not only do the coaches know all the players well but all the players know each other, they've played in the same teams at times, so it makes some extra spice.''
Included in those is former Waitakere player Jason Hicks, who has excelled at Waikato to the extent that he was named Player of the Month for November.
"That's brilliant for Jason, who's obviously showing the benefits of gettin regular football,'' Emblen said.
The coach said the two most pleasing aspects of his side's perfect start to the ASB Premiership were their defence and away form.
"We haven't been perfect every game but I've been really pleased with the amont of goals conceded and our best performances have been away from home.''
In team news, usual skipper Dan Peat is expected to start on the bench for the hosts as he returns from a hamstring injury while Gerdsen may have to decide whether to again have hugely promising teen Eugene Heerschap on the bench or let him continue his heroics in the club's ASB Youth League semifinal away to Canterbury United after netting a hat-trick against Waitakere United last weekend.
Waitakere have injury concerns over Jason Rowley and Neil Sykes while Ryan de Vries is in South Africa, but they have called up del Monte along with youth stars Tim Payne and Ashton Pett.
Fresh from an ASB Youth League hat trick against Waitakere United last weekend, Eugene HEERSCHAP is provisionally added to the senior squad for a crucial match against the same club. Daniel PEAT returns from injury and Mauri WASI also makes the squad after missing last week’s trip to Canterbury.
ASB Youth League stand outs Tim PAYNE and Ashton PETT come into the squad as does Luiz DEL MONTE.
Mike GWYTHER and Zane SOLE are left out for internal disciplinary reasons, while Ryan DE VRIES is in South Africa.
Jason ROWLEY will make his 50th ASB Premiership appearance if selected, but faces a scan on an ankle injury picked up in last weekend’s OFC Champions League fixture in New Caledonia
Two wins, one draw and four losses in seven home matches is the record Waikato FC has posted in showdowns with Waitakere United to date. Waikato FC's biggest win over Waitakere United was a 3-0 triumph enjoyed in 2004-05 season.
Waitakere United has won ten of their last eleven ASB Premiership matches with Waikato FC. They've scored 23 goals and conceded just nine during a run of success that began in 2006.
ASB Premiership - Week 8
Saturday 11 December, 2010
1- John FLETCHER (GK)
1- Danny ROBINSON (GK)
2- Maksim MANKO
2- Jason ROWLEY
5- Nathan STROM
3- Aaron SCOTT
6- Nick BRANCH
4- Tim MYERS
7- Jason HICKS
6- Jack PELTER
8- Jason McKEOWN
8- Chris BALE
9- Mark JONES
9- Luiz del MONTE
10- Daniel PEAT
10- Allan PEARCE
11- Nathan PALMER (C)
11- Neil SYKES
12- Jack BEGUELY
12- Roy KRISHNA
14- Joe BRESNAHAN
14- Tim PAYNE
15- Eugene HEERSCHAP
16- Neil EMBLEN
17- Milos NIKOLIC
17- Jake BUTLER (C)
18- Alexei DAVIES-CAMPBELL
19- Dakota LUCAS
20- Sam MARGETTS
22- Liam LITTLE (GK)
22- Alex CARR (GK)
23- Ashton PETT
23- Matteo BALLAN
25- Sean LOVEMORE
24- Mauri WASI
Two to be ommitted