By John Donnachie / asbpremiership.co.nz
CHRISTCHURCH - Waitakere coach Neil Emblen says this weekend's ASB Premiership semi-final 2nd leg showdown with Canterbury in Christchurch is far from a formality.
On paper it looks like mission impossible for the red and blacks. Trailing 6-2 from the first leg the home side have a mountain to climb, but the Waitakere coach remains coy about his side's expected progression to another Grand Final.
“The cushion is nice, but we need to make sure we get over the line. I expect the Canterbury boys to throw the kitchen sink at us”, said Emblen.
The Englishman insists his side's 6-2 win, two weeks ago, was anything but a romp.
“We had one of those days when everything we created went into the back of the net. The same could happen for them down there. They actually had us under the pump for some of the second half of that first leg. We were six up, but they kept going. The two goals they scored, stopped the game on Sunday being a non event.”
The character and fortitude the Canterbury Dragons have displayed, in their last two outings in Auckland following the tragic Christchurch earthquake, on February 22, has moved Emblen.
“ We have always had respect for Keith and his team but even more so now, after what him and the lads have been through with the earthquake. It cannot be easy for them leaving town to play football with all that going on. They played so well against Auckland City and never gave up against us. They actually play a similar style to ourselves, always pressing, looking to score goals.”
The Waitakere coach emphasised his respect for his Southern counterparts by revealing he would be fielding his strongest team possible.
Striker Roy Krishna remains sidelined with an injury and and not everyone is a 100 percent, but there are no major worries.
Otherwise, the champions may privately have an eye on the final.
With no games in the last two weeks, Emblen indicated it was important to field his best team to maintain an element of momentum should they reach another Grand Final.
Dragons' coach Keith Braithwaite meanwhile, was philosophical when quizzed on his team's chances.
“We want to win the game first and foremost. It's a helluva task, it will take one huge effort to get to the final. Waitakere have proved they are the best in the country at the moment. I have a lot of respect for Neil and what he is doing up there.”
Braithwaite acknowledged that all out attack, was too risky an option, against a side the calibre of Waitakere.
Instead, Canterbury would need to be patient and take their opportunities when they come.
“No one is giving us a cat and hell chance, but if we start well and do not concede anything at the back, we are capable on the day”, warned Braithwaite.
Team-wise, the Dragons squad was coping but there were still problems around the players getting transport to training.
The players were also still dealing with personal issues in the aftermath of last month's earthquake.
Canterbury development player of year, striker Sam Miles, is struggling to make the match, while experienced central defender Gareth Rowe is doubtful with concussion, after a head knock he received in a friendly match last weekend.
Midfielder Joe Murray comes back into the mix.
The Dragons' home venue this year at Linfield Park is closed. As is it's traditional home at English Park. Both grounds suffered damage during the earthquake.
As a result, this Sunday's match has been switched to Tulett Park- the home of the Nomads club in the Christchurch North-Western surburb of Harewood. The match kicks off at 2pm on Sunday.
Ashton PETT and Anthony HOBBS are drafted into the selection frame.
Two players from the extended squad will be omitted closer to Match Day.
Gareth ROWE is named in the squad despite an injury sustained in a midweek friendly match.
Fiji international striker Roy KRISHNA still absent with a dislocated wrist. Allan PEARCE, Zane SOLE and Dakota LUCAS all sit on yellow cards for this match with coach Neil EMBLEN determined to field his full strength side after two weeks without competitive action.
Canterbury United require a 4-0 win that will give them victory on the away goals rules. If they achieve that the Dragons will advance to the ASB Premiership Grand Final for the third time in the club’s history. They last defeated Waitakere United 4-0 in January 2010 in a regular season showdown at English Park. The record points toward a tough afternoon for the home side with that win the only victory to speak of over Waitakere United since 2007.
Waitakere United require a draw or win to advance to a sixth ASB Premiership Grand Final in seven seasons. History favours a Waitakere victory with the West Aucklanders boasting 9 wins, 1 draw and just 1 defeat in the previous eleven matches with the Dragons.
Sunday 3 April, 2011
1- Tom BATTY (GK)
1- Danny ROBINSON (GK)
2- Dan TERRIS (c)
2- Jason ROWLEY
3- Nick WORTELBOER
3- Aaron SCOTT
4- Gareth ROWE
4- Tim MYERS
5- Tom SCHWARZ
6- Jack PELTER
6- Glen COLLINS
7- Martin BULLOCK
7- Aaron CLAPHAM
8- Chris BALE
9- Russell KAMO
10- Allan PEARCE
10- Sam MILES
13- Michael GWYTHER
11- Ryan FAICHNIE
14- Tim PAYNE
12- Gagame FENI
16- Neil EMBLEN
13- Garry McDERMOTT
17- Jake BUTLER (c)
14- Joe MURRAY
18- Zane SOLE
15- Danny ATTWELL
19- Dakota LUCAS
19- Jeremy WILD
20- Ryan de VRIES
23- Andrew BARTON
21- Anthony HOBBS
23- Ashton PETT
28- Andy RALPH (GK)
- Two be ommitted