By Cameron Russell / asbpremiership.co.nz
WELLINGTON - The hotly contested race for an O-league berth heats up when in form sides Team Wellington and Canterbury United feature at Newtown Park on Sunday.
The hosts have strung together a run of five games unbeaten, while the visitors have won three in a row scoring an impressive 19 goals in the process.
With just two points separating the teams on the table, a result for either side will be much welcomed with defending champions Waitakere United within striking distance lurking in 4th place.
With only four games remaining, Matt Calcott has said that as cliché as it sounds, his team is just taking each game as it comes.
“I think given the importance of the games and the pot of gold at the end of it, I think we try and win them all. Although we haven’t specifically sat down and said we want 12 points, I think we have to go into every game with a cup final mentality and be picking up three points, even more so at home”.
He added: “It’s no secret that when you’ve got a young team you will have some ups and downs which we saw last week. It’s been a tough week, with eight players away in the Olympic camp it’s going to be all hands on deck on Sunday and I’m interested myself to see how these boys shape up”.
Canterbury coach Keith Braithwaite also has similar opinions when looking at his sides remaining fixtures, which includes games against other current top four sides, Wellington, Waitakere and Auckland.
“We’re just taking each week as it comes and obviously, like any other games were trying for victory and going for wins” said Braithwaite.
Although the Canterbury coach has plenty to be pleased about with his side tallying up goals and keeping clean sheets at the back, he says there is always room for progress.
“We are happy with the way things are going but like anything else in life and football, there is always room for improvement and we work on that in every session”.
Looking forward to the weekends clash, Braithwaite has said his side is at its strongest when playing there game.
“We’ve just got to make sure we play our game and make sure we keep Wellington under wraps and limit their chances because they have been scoring quite a few goals themselves. It’s going to be a good open game and I think, if we can concentrate on playing a nice passing game and keep it tight then were in with a good chance” said Braithwaite.
Canterbury striker George Slefendorfas scored five goals last week and leads the league in the golden boot race with 11 goals.
When asked how to minimize the chances Canterbury creates and close down Slefendorfas, Matt Calcott said:
“We just make sure we come out organized and keep possession. If they have no space to work with then they won’t be that effective. He [Slefendorfas] has been scoring goals and playing well, and that’s great but we’ve got some people at the other end who on their day can do pretty well too.
In the season’s earlier match up back in round four, it was Canterbury United taking all three points. Aaron Clapham scored the only goal from the penalty spot and Wellington defender James Musa was sent off.
Kick-off is at 1pm from Newtown Park on Sunday.
Henry FA’ARODO is set to make his Team Wellington debut – FA’ARODO has 27 ASB Premiership career appearances and has scored seven goals in spells with Auckland City and Canterbury United. Dominic ROWE also lines up for his first ASB Premiership appearance since leaving YoungHeart Manawatu in 2008.
Nick WORTELBOER, Calvin OPPERMAN and Ken YAMAMOTO receive call-ups.
Coach Matt CALCOTT hedges his bets and will shed four players from his announced squad prior to match day.
Darren WHITE (suspended), Geoff MacINTYRE (unavailable) and Louie BUSH (replaced) miss out on selection, Dan TERRIS (Achilles) remains on the injured list.
Wiremu PATRICK will make his 65th ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected. PATRICK has scored seven goals.
If he can score this Sunday, George SLEFENDORFAS will equal the most number of goals scored in the ASB Premiership Golden Boot race since the regular season became a 14-round contest in 2008-09. The current record is held by Allan PEARCE of Waitakere United who scored 12 goals last season.
Team Wellington has only been beaten once on home soil by Canterbury United – a 4-2 defeat in 2010.
Canterbury defeated Team Wellington 1-0 when the teams last met in Round 4 of the ASB Premiership.
ASB Premiership - Round 11
1- Phil IMRAY (GK)
1- Tom BATTY (GK)
2- Tim SCHAEFFERS
3- Mark JOHNSTON
3- Jamie DUNCAN
4- Nick WORTELBOER
4- Michael EAGAR
5- Tom SCHWARZ
5- Johnny RAJ
8- Aaron CLAPHAM
6- Darren CHERITON
9- George SLEFENDORFAS
7- Wiremu PATRICK
10- Russell KAMO
8- Ricky ZUCCO
12- Andy BARTON
9- Patrick FLEMING
13- Daniel GLOZIER
10- Dakota LUCAS
14- Josh SMITH
11- Henry FA'ARODO
15- Julyan COLLETT
12- Ethan GALBRAITH
16- Joe MURRAY
13- Karl WHALEN (c)
17- Cole PEVERLEY
15- Sam MASON-SMITH
19- Calvin OPPERMAN
17- Dominic ROWE
20- Ken YAMAMOTO
18- Michael FIFII
19- James MUSA
20- Luke ROWE
23- Louis FENTON
25- Scott BASALAJ (GK)
- four to be omitted