By Staff Writer / asbpremiership.co.nz
PALMERSTON NORTH – Sunday’s derby showdown with Hawke’s Bay United may offer YoungHeart Manawatu the ideal chance to turn their traumatic season around – but don’t bet on it.
Smashed 7-2 by defending champions Waitakere United two weeks ago, Manawatu capitulated completely at Canterbury with their 9-1 defeat last Sunday equalling the record for biggest ever defeat in ASB Premiership history.
YoungHeart’s season has undeniably lurched from bad to worse and picking out positives from the wreckage is a difficult but not entirely impossible task.
Midfielder Jimmy Haidakis has bagged four goals most of which have been scored with impressive free-kicks.
Haidakis has turned in some impressive performances but has lacked support in the engine room.
Nathan Cooksley – who racked up his 80th ASB Premiership career appearance in the Canterbury defeat - is now YoungHeart’s most experienced outfield player.
The dreadlocked midfielder picked up the captaincy from Cory Chettleburgh but of late must view the honour as a poisoned chalice.
Cooksley has watched players like Chettleburgh, Adam Cowan, Dale Higham and Jason Hayne come and go over the last two seasons only to be replaced by academy graduates and honest journeymen.
The effect of that player drain is self-evident in the results.
Of the Canterbury defeat, a despondent Cooksley told the Manawatu Standard: "It's a very down mood at the moment. Not much to say about it, really. It was pretty embarrassing. They completely outplayed us. But we didn't have one of our better games."
Ironically, scoring goals has rarely been a struggle for Manawatu either now, or last season when they finished eighth with 19 goals for, a better record than Hawke’s Bay who finished just one point off the playoffs, and four better than Otago who finished seventh but still managed to earn eight more points than Manawatu.
This season, Manawatu has bagged eight goals, again, a better record than two of their rivals, Waikato FC and Otago United.
Stopping goals has been the problem with Matt Borren coming under an intense barrage.
Manawatu has conceded 35 goals in eight games, an average of just over four per match and they remain on course to break their own record of most goals conceded in a 14 round regular season (38).
How Manawatu coach Stu Jacobs will configure his team off the back of two maulings remains to be seen.
Barry Lewis is suspended and misses the match leaving veteran defender Jamie O’Connor short of a defensive partner.
Suele Soromon has looked lively but mostly lost despite scoring a wonder goal against Waitakere.
Manawatu has matched Soromon with Michael Fraser up front at different times but now may be the time to employ an extra body either in midfield or at the back.
Hawke’s Bay’s season by contrast has been blighted by postponements and a fixture list that has been interrupted by the OFC Champions League calendar.
A win for Hawke’s Bay would lift them to within touching distance of the top four and with a game in hand.
Despite being the only team to drop points to YoungHeart Manawatu, Hawke’s Bay's season may have already turned a corner.
Hawke’s Bay’s 1-0 win over Waitakere United in the last round handed coach Chris Greatholder his first victory at this level.
It was also Bay’s second consecutive win over Waitakere, no mean feat in itself.
Hawke’s Bay is currently brimming with confidence and therefore less likely to entertain a repeat of last November’s four goal thriller in Napier in which the home side snatched a draw with just six minutes left on the clock.
The dust appears to have settled at the club following Matt Chandler’s sudden mid-season departure and a playoff charge is a realistic possibility.
Action gets underway at Memorial Park, Palmerston North, on Sunday at 2pm.
The Bay start the match as strong favourites.
Hawke's Bay United
Hamish McKAY is drafted into the squad.
Bill ROBERTSON returns from suspension. Leon BIRNIE rejoins the squad after work commitments meant he missed the 1-0 victory over Waitakere United last Sunday
Barry LEWIS is suspended
Chris McIVOR and Luke CHAPMAN both drop out of the squad. Matt GOULD (shoulder) and Rudi BAUERFEIND (broken arm) are both injured.
Nathan COOKSLEY made his 80th ASB Premiership career appearance against Canterbury United. He has yet to score a goal at this level of the game.
Leon BIRNIE will make his 66th ASB Premiership career appearance. BIRNIE has scored 29 ASB Premiership career goals.
YoungHeart Manawatu last beat Hawke’s Bay United back in 2009 when they downed the visitors by 1-0 courtesy of a Suele SOROMON goal.
Hawke’s Bay United has won four and lost one of its last five visits to Palmerston North.
ASB Premiership - Round 8
Hawke's Bay United
Sunday 29 January, 2012
1- Matt BORREN (GK)
1- Richard GILLESPIE (GK)
2- Hamish McKAY
2- Fergus NEIL
3- Josh CHETTLEBURGH
3- Alex BARLOW
4- Jamie O'CONNOR
4- Stu WILSON
7- Jared CURTIS
5- Bill ROBERTSON (c)
8- Nathan COOKSLEY (c)
6- Stephen HINDMARCH
9- Suele SOROMON
7- Matt HASTINGS
10- Jimmy HAIDAKIS
8- Adam COWAN
14- Pablo MOYA
10- Sam MARGETTS
15- Stewart LAWRIE
11- Conor TINNION
16- Michael FRASER
12- Dale HIGHAM
17- Jordan MARTENS
14- Danny WILSON
19- Andrew DRAKE (GK)
16- Reilly O'MEAGHER
20- Souley CISSOKO
17- Tom BISS
24- Izaia BURSTON
18- Hamish WATSON
- one to be added.
21- Josh MARGETTS
22- Jerome GROOT
26- Shaun PETA (GK)