By David Cross / asbpremiership.co.nz
WELLINGTON - With the ASB Premiership semi-finals less than two weeks away, Team Wellington has a chance to arrest an alarming form dip when they host YoungHeart Manawatu on Sunday.
Youngheart Manawatu are at risk of setting a new record they would prefer not to add to their books with the lowest points tally in ASB Premiership history threatening them. That alone should provide motivation without the added flashpoint of a local clash.
Bob Sova's side come off a midweek loss to Auckland City, but at 2-1 the game was by no means the one way traffic that the league table and recent form would have suggested but still ended in a familiar result for the home team.
"That's the eighth time this season we've lost by one goal. We had three good chances in the second half and I thought we were worth a draw," Sova said in the aftermath of Wednesday's loss.
The home team meanwhile having locked in a 3rd place finish many weeks ago are coming off two losses. The two game slump is a worry for Team Wellington coach Stu Jacobs.
"It didn't quite go to plan last time out," Jacobs said.
"We'd taken things back and restarted our season from a training and mindset point of view to get us focussed for the finals and the Hawke's Bay match fell early in those plans. It's not an excuse, we never switched on and didn't turn up."
But Jacobs believes it's onwards and upwards.
"This week's a key for us. From here we go to the finals and no matter which side we're playing we're going to need to be switched on from the start. We need to set ourselves for that this week.
“They're a good side Manawatu and I think they've been unlucky this season looking at the table, but that doesn't change what our focus is and that's a win to set the mindset and the focus on the finals series.”
While the focus for most will be on the game overall, an example of the rivalry is the clash between John Sutherland and Michael White.
The flatmates live within metres of Team Wellington's ground, David Farrington Park. They have conducted a running battle all season on the goal scoring tables and neither will want to miss a chance to get one up over the other at Newtown Park on Sunday.
Team Wellington triumphed 3-2 when the sides met in Week 10 at Memorial Park in Palmerston North but Manawatu gave Jacobs team a stern test in the second half.
The action gets underway at 4pm.
Jamie O’CONNOR is rested and top goalscorer Hicham KAMRI is suspended for this match.
KAMRI has scored seven goals in 12 games for Team Wellington.
Adam COWAN will make his 121st ASB Premiership appearance, if selected. This means COWAN remains the most capped player in the history of the competition.
Wellington have earned back-to-back wins over YoungHeart Manawatu on the road over the past two seasons but the last time the sides met in the capital, it was the Palmerston North-based club that prevailed 4-0. In seven previous meetings between the sides in the capital, Team Wellington has won two, drawn one and lost four to YoungHeart Manawatu.
The last time the two teams met in the capital, Seule SOROMON scored all four goals as YoungHeart won in Wellington for the first time since 2006. The Memorial Park men won the match 4-0.
ASB Premiership - Week 16
Sunday 6 March, 2011
1- Phil IMRAY (GK)
1- Matt BORREN (GK)
2- Scott ROBSON
4- Colin FALVEY
3- Jamie DUNCAN
5- Josh CHETTLEBURGH
6- Mikey HALIKIAS
6- Matt KENNEDY
7- Wiremu PATRICK
8- Nathan COOKSLEY
9- Romain CORNAND
9- Michael WHITE
10- Michael FIFII
10- Adam COWAN (c)
11- Andrew ABBA
12- Joachim RANDE
12- Emiliano TADE
13- Joe HARRIS
13- Karl WHALEN (c)
15- Pablo MOYA
16- John SUTHERLAND
17- Brook TOZER
18- Darren CHERITON
18- Dale HIGHAM
19- George BARBAROUSES
19- Ben WILKES (GK)
21- Tyler LISSETTE
21- Jared BLOOR
22- Justin GULLEY
25- Jono STEELE
23- Ryan CAIN
24- Jessie SMITH
25- Lance RAMAEKERS (GK)
26- Peter HALSTEAD
- Two to be omitted