By John Donnachie / asbpremiership.co.nz
CHRISTCHURCH - It's a case of out with the old and in with the new for Canterbury United this Sunday as the Dragons' look to get back into play-off contention.
The red and blacks finished 2010 with a whimper after accumlating a miserly one point from a possible nine in December.
Moreover, the Dragons' have not recorded a victory since mid-November, when they beat cellar-dwellers Youngheart Manawatu.
Canterbury Assistant Manager, Andy Pitman, however, banished any talk of a lingering hangover going into the new year.
“We are looking forward to this weekend. Danny Attwell has a slight knock, but should be okay. Otherwise,everyone is fit, so it is a case of getting out there and making a good start.”
Pitman was confident the Dragons' could turn their fortunes around, after a disappointing run of results.
“Despite the results, we have been playing reasonably well. I think the score-lines have not reflected our performances. In some games, silly mistakes have cost us. Also, our discipline has let us down at times-you can't expect to get results finishing games with 10 men.”
The importance of making a good start to the remaining regular season programme is not lost on Pitman.
“Playing Auckland and then Team Wellington next week are two very hard games. But we can still make the play-offs. Our target is to finish second in the league. The first game against Auckland will be especially tough. I would say we are the underdogs going into this one.”
While Canterbury are happy to see the end of 2010, Sunday's opponents Auckland City will be hoping the festive break has not broken their momentum.
After a quiet start to the campaign, the Aucklanders finally found some form during December, finishing the year on a high with a 5-0 drubbing of Hawke's Bay.
City coach, Ramon Tribulietx, remained hopeful the two week break had not upset his side's rhythm.
“Obviously, we are going to find it hard to get back to where we were in terms of the football we were playing. It could take a while. But I can say, that the attitude of players has been good in training this week. They are really up for this game, everyone just wants to get back to business.”
Despite the fact, champions Waitakere United appear to be running away with the minor Premiership, Tribulietx still believes this season has been especially competitive.
“I would not under-estimate any team going into the new year. Obviously, Waitakere have a big advantage, but looking at the play-off spots, this year is tighter than previous ones'-at least since I have been involved.”
The Aucklanders travel south with virtually a full-strength squad, with only midfielder Luis Corrales unavailable.
The match kicks off at 2pm at Linfield Park.
Dan TERRIS and Andy PITMAN return to bolster the experience within Canterbury ranks.
Manel EXPOSITO in drafted into the match day squad.
Gagame FENI and Garry McDERMOTT.
No suspensions or injuries for the home side.
Adam McGEORGE serves a one match suspension after reaching four yellow cards for the season.
Canterbury has beaten Auckland City twice in their last nine matches and includes last season’s 3-0 away win in the play-off semi-final second leg at Kiwitea Street. Auckland City has won its last two visits to Christchurch 3-1 and 2-1 while the home side last tasted victory at home in 2008 when they dumped the visitors 2-1.
Auckland City has won three of its previous five regular season encounters with Canterbury United, drawn one and lost one. They thrashed Canterbury 5-0 in their final match of the 2008-09 season in Christchurch before last season’s 1-1 draw.
1- Tom BATTY (GK)
1- Jacob SPOONLEY (GK)
2- Dan TERRIS
2- Angel BERLANGA
3- Nick WORTELBOER
3- Ian HOGG
4- Gareth ROWE
5- Phil EDGINTON
5- Tom SCHWARZ
6- Stuart KELLY
6- Glen COLLINS
7- James PRITCHETT
7- Aaron CLAPHAM
8- David MULLIGAN
9- Russell KAMO
11- Daniel KOPRIVCIC
11- Ryan FAICHNIE
12- Patrick GEORGE (GK)
14- Joe MURRAY
13- Alex FENERIDIS
15- Danny ATTWELL
14- Adam DICKINSON
17- Ryan TIPPETT
15- Ivan VICELICH (C)
19- Jeremy WILD
19- Daniel MORGAN
22- Coey TURIPA (GK)
21- Manel EXPOSITO
23- Andrew BARTON
22- Andrew MILNE
25- Andy PITMAN
23- Adam THOMAS