By Bob Pearce / www.asbpremiership.co.nz
AUCKLAND - Waitakere United are under no illusions about the challenge Canterbury United will offer in their first leg semifinal of the ASB Premiership at Fred Taylor Park on Sunday.
Coach Neil Emblen delayed team training on Thursday to watch Canterbury battle to a 1-0 win over Auckland City to clinch the remaining semifinal berth ahead of Hawkes Bay United. And he came away from Kiwitea St impressed.
"I was very impressed with them. They epitomised their coach, Keith Braithwaite, battling for everything, and they're going to be a tough nut to crack.
"With all that's gone on in Christchurch they've clearly bonded. Their wide men are dangerous and they created chances. We're in for a scrap.
"We've had two tight games against them this season and last year's Grand Final was very tight until they had a player sent off."
Emblen has had to wait to hone his team coaching until he knew his opponents - and Waitakere have given away the perceived advantage of playing the first leg away in order to allow the Southerners more time to arrange a home ground after the earthquake ruled out their regular venues.
But he doesn't believe the venue switch is necessarily a disadvantage.
"I suppose when it comes to the second leg you might feel a little bit hard done by if it came to extra time and penalties away from home.
"But you have 180 minutes to prove you're the better team and 180 minutes should be plenty."
Waitakere will still be without Roy Krishna, recovering from a wrist injury, and Sean Lovemore, who has served his stand-down for playing for the Phoenix but has picked up a foot injury in a practice game. Dakota Lucas injured his foot on Thursday night while Ryan de Vries missed practice with a sore knee.
Braithwaite enjoyed the special moment with his team when they celebrated the emotional victory at Kiwitea earned by Ken Yamamoto's 88th minute goal.
But he knows Sunday at the Fred will be a big ask for his players.
"It will be a huge test with Waitakere. We really respect Neil Emblen and his team. We'll enjoy the moment tonight and just have a light session before we come back north. I think all our players will be available."
New Zealand U-17 player Ken Yamamoto was the hero of the moment, but there were enormous contributions from goalkeeper Tom Batty and the rest of the defence.
Russell Kamo is a class act and the tricky Gagame Feni brings back memories of Benji Totori.
Waitakere won the Grand Final 3-1 last season on their home turf against Canterbury. How the Cantabrians would love to avenge that defeat.
*The ASB Premiership Semi Final, 2nd Leg, between Canterbury United and Waitakere United will be played on the weekend of 2/3 April, 2011. A venue and kick-off time for the rescheduled fixture is yet to be confirmed. The 2nd Leg match between Auckland City and Team Wellington is scheduled for the weekend of 26/27 March, 2011, at Kiwitea Street, Sandringham, kick-off time to be confirmed.
Roy KRISHA is injured with a dislocated wrist.
Sean LOVEMORE stands down as part of his stint with the Wellington Phoenix.
Canterbury United has named a provisional squad for this match with question marks next to several players names that include influential skipper Dan TERRIS and former All Whites midfielder Glen COLLINS. Coach Keith BRAITHWAITE will name a travelling delegation following a training session tomorrow morning.
Waitakere United have played ten knock-out matches in six seasons. Their record reads six wins and four defeats and includes two ASB Premiership Grand Final wins and three Grand Final defeats.
Canterbury United have played Waitakere United twice this season and lost both matches. The last time the two teams met outside these regular season fixtures was in the 2009-10 Grand Final won 3-1 by Waitakere United.
ASB Premiership Semi Final, 1st Leg
1- Danny ROBINSON (GK)
22- Tom BATTY (GK)
2- Jason ROWLEY
2- Dan TERRIS (c)
3- Aaron SCOTT
3- Nick WORTELBOER
4- Tim MYERS
4- Gareth ROWE
5- Jack PELTER
5- Tom SCHWARZ
7- Martin BULLOCK
6- Glen COLLINS
8- Chris BALE
7- Aaron CLAPHAM
10- Allan PEARCE
9- Russell KAMO
13- Mike GWYTHER
10- Sam MILES
14- Tim PAYNE
11- Ryan FAICHNIE
16- Neil EMBLEN
12- Gagame FENI
17- Jake BUTLER (c)
13- Garry McDERMOTT
18- Zane SOLE
14- Joe MURRAY
19- Dakota LUCAS
15- Danny ATTWELL
20- Ryan de VRIES
19- Jeremy WILD
24- Luke ADAMS
20- Dominic McGARR
28- Andy RALPH (GK)
21- Ken YAMAMOTO
- One to be omitted
23- Andrew BARTON
25- Andy PITMAN
Provisional Squad List Only