By Rab Smith / asbpremiership.co.nz
DUNEDIN - Darren Overton has delayed his departure for Australia and will now face Team Wellington for Otago United at the Caledonian Ground on Sunday.
Overton’s presence will attract a few personal fans, since he played regularly for Caversham for several years in winter, and his broad range of skills have lit up Otago’s play this season.
He has scored half of Otago’s goals so far this season, and his general outfield play was of sufficient quality to put him in the picture for New Zealand Olympic squad selection.
Fellow candidate for the Olympic squad is Tristan Prattley. The talented left sided defender has broadened his range by also turning out for Otago at centreback, where his calm positional play was exceptional.
Team captain Prattley stands out with over 50 games in the ASB Premiership, next in seniority is the feisty young midfielder Morgan Day with 32 games and not so new right fullback Harley Rodeka has 20.
Keen to increase his total is striker Ant Hancock, but he is out again, still recovering from the calf strain he picked up in last weeks warm up.
Apart from pseudo veterans goalkeeper Peter Evans and defender Craig Ferguson, Otago has a long line of smooth cheeked youngsters, eager but lacking top experience - that coach Richard Murray will have to organize.
"Southlander Andrew Ridden has been added to the squad, which might just introduce even more competition amongst our young bucks," said Murray.
"Our first priority is to put out our strongest team against Wellington. We created enough chances last week to win twice over, so this week we have to hit the net," said Murray.
By contrast, coach Matt Calcott’s Team Wellington side is buzzing after banging in six goals against Hawke's Bay last week, and clearly, Louis Fenton, after scoring four of them, would have needed watching.
But Fenton is unavailable while Scott Basalaj is away on professional trials in the UK. Michael Fifii is drafted in and Nick Branch remains injured with concussion.
Third placed Wellington has 12 points, Otago – after losing the last point gained in the first round 2-2 draw with Wellington, due to crass administration – lurks three points behind on nine points.
A small enough gap to give the home side hope that it can take something from the match, and remain in the hunt for a playoff place.
The match kicks off at Caledonian Ground on Sunday at 2pm.
Andrew RIDDEN is added to the Otago United squad and Jude FITZPATRICK is listed tentatively despite carrying a back strain.
Michael FIFII is drafted in to cover for the unavailable FENTON
Ant HANCOCK succumbs to a calf strain
Last week’s four goal hero Louis FENTON is unavailable while Scott BASALAJ is away on professional trials in the UK.
Tristan PRATTLEY is Otago United’s most experienced player after he notched his 50th ASB Premiership career appearance in last week’s defeat to Waikato FC.
Nick BRANCH remains injured with concussion.
Otago lost 0-3 and 0-5 to Team Wellington last season. Otago has won just two it’s nine home matches with Team Wellington since the ASB Premiership began in 2004, Wellington winning six with one draw.
Team Wellington has notched six away wins and a draw from nine visits to Dunedin. Team Wellington’s 5-0 wins over Otago in Dunedin in 2004-05 and 2007-08 are the capital men’s biggest ever wins over the southerners.
ASB Premiership - Round 8
Sunday 22 January, 2012
1- Oswaldo RODRIGUEZ (GK)
1- Phil IMRAY
2- Liam LOCKHART
2- Tim SCHAEFFERS
3- Tristan PRATTLEY (c)
3- Jamie DUNCAN
4- Jude FITZPATRICK
4- Michael EAGAR
5- Matt JOY
6- Darren CHERITON
6- Morgan DAY
7- Wiremu PATRICK
7- Regan COLDICOTT
9- Patrick FLEMING
8- Seamus RYDER
10- Dakota LUCAS
9- Donnie MacGREGOR
12- Ethan GALBRAITH
11- James GOVAN
13- Karl WHALEN
14- Sam MEPHAM
15- Sam MASON-SMITH
15- Darren OVERTON
18- Michael FIFII
18- Harley RODEKA
19- James MUSA
20- Matt BROOK
20- Luke ROWE
22- Peter EVANS (GK)
22- Justin GULLEY
23- Joel STEVENS
24- Daniel CLARKE
24- Andrew RIDDEN
25- Craig FERGUSON
- two to be omitted.