By John Donnachie / asbpremiership.co.nz
Back in November, Canterbury opened their ASB Premiership campaign with a resounding 4-2 win against their Sunday opponents, Team Wellington.
The manner of the victory, the Dragons' first ever win in the capital, generated great optimism throughout the Christchurch football community. The feeling was the red and blacks would not only make the play-offs, they would go all the way.
After all, they made the Grand Final the previous season against the odds.
Alas, the early season promise has not materialised. The Dragons have never managed to reach the highs of that November afternoon in the capital.
Now with their playoff hopes in the balance, they meet an in-form Team Wellington in Nelson, in what is been described by some Dragons players, as a 'must win game'.
Russell Kamo scored a hat trick the last time around, but the Dragons' striker said he would happily settle for anyone to score this weekend, if it got Canterbury the much needed points.
“For me, it is simply about winning now. We certainly played well the last time we met them (Team Wellington). Everything clicked that day, and we could have have won by a lot more.”
Kamo admits time is running out for the Dragons' to get things right. But he predicted that Canterbury would come out all guns blazing this weekend.
“We are still upbeat. I think we need to attack teams more. Maybe some games we have been holding back too much. But I’m sure you will see us having a go on Sunday.”
The Dragons' striker said at times this season he as felt isolated, playing as the sole attacker. Last season he enjoyed the role more.
“The midfield have not always been able to get up and support me. That has made life difficult for me this year. I know I can do better, but I really need more support upfront.”
Dragons Coach, Keith Braithwaite, said he had virtually a full squad at his disposal.
“Ät the moment, Gareth Rowe has a tight hamstring, and Russell Kamo also has a niggle but they should be fine.”
Midfielder Joe Murray meanwhile misses out, after his red card in last week's defeat to Auckland City. Braithwaite said Murray's absence could mean Canterbury switching to a different game-plan.
There is local interest with former Nelson Surburbs forward Gagame Feni back in the Canterbury squad. He could play a significant role, should the Dragons' decide to adopt a must win strategy.
Team Wellington coach Stu Jacobs confirmed that his squad will be at full strength. The men from the capital go into the match sitting second on the ladder, after an impressive run of five consective victories.
Jacobs recalled the last meeting between both clubs. He said it had taken a while for his team to get going. ”Canterbury were outstanding that day. But I think looking back we were trying to introduce a different system with new players coming in too.
“Now everyone has got used to what we are trying to do. Everyone is enjoying it. We have consistent performers across the field, with boys even coming off the bench and making an impact.”
Jacobs said playing the game in Nelson was a great idea and he hoped for a good crowd and weather. “It's good to see a game like this played in the provinces. Nelson has a great tradition with national league football in this country.”
The match kicks off 2pm at Trafalgar Park, Nelson.
ASB Premiership - Week 11
Sunda 16 January, 2011