By Bob Pearce / asbpremiership.co.nz
AUCKLAND - Despite losing 3-1 to Auckland City last weekend, Waitakere United coach Neil Emblen still believes his team can win the ASB Premiership and the O-League.
Sitting in fourth place in the Premiership could put a damper on any team’s title aspirations and, as Waitakere approach their clash with Waikato FC at Fred Taylor Park on Sunday, Emblen has been trying to lift spirits and re-energise his squad.
“The mood wasn’t good at training and as a club four defeats in 10 games isn’t good enough, but we’ve got to set new targets now and move ahead,” he said.
“We’ve got to win all our games and we’ll check them off one by one. The players have got to believe they can still win the titles. With the right attitude and the right application they can.
“They’ve got to believe in themselves. I believe in them.”
"The Fred" is usually a happy hunting ground for the home team and striker Roy Krishna, who was marked out of last weekend’s game, will be keen to regain the touch that saw him score a hat-trick on home turf last month against Otago United.
Emblen has one injury worry. Allan Pearce came out of the Kiwitea clash with a broken nose. Pearce, a physiotherapist by trade, believes he will be fit to play but he will have to pass a fitness test.
There will be no complacency about meeting Waikato, who are seventh on the ASB Premiership table with two wins to their credit. They were cruelly beaten by third-placed Team Wellington with a last-gasp goal at Porritt Stadium last round.
“I saw that game and I thought they were very unlucky not to get three points never mind one,” said Emblen. “We beat them 4-1 in the first round but they’ve certainly improved.”
For Waikato that loss at the death was yet another learning experience for a young squad who have played above their years this season.
And “young” becomes even younger for Sunday’s game. Coach Declan Edge has chosen 18-year-old goalkeeper Danyon Drake to make his debut ahead of the experienced Mark Fulcher.
“It’s a continuance of our policy to give homegrown and young players a chance,” said Edge. “Danyon is from Taupo in our area. We’ve still got three or four young players waiting for their chance.”
Edge was disappointed with the result of the game against Wellington but no way deflected from his development of young talent.
“We were unlucky,” he said. “But that’s football and I was most impressed with the way we played. We’re looking forward to going up to Waitakere and sticking to our principles of playing attractive football, keeping the ball on the ground on a good surface.”
Edge has injury worries around Michael Mayne and Harry Edge, while Matteo Ballan took something of a battering at the weekend and is feeling the bruises.
A win for Waikato could lift them above Otago into sixth place. If Waitakere prevail, they would move to third if Wellington don’t take three points from Canterbury United.
Gagame FENI, Steven HOLLOWAY and Jordan VALE.
Aaron SCOTT (knee) remains on the injured list but could only be three weeks away from a possible comeback.
Declan EDGE opts for consistency with the same squad from last week’s heartbreaking 2-3 defeat to Team Wellington. Harry EDGE (groin) and Michael MAYNE (ankle) are doubtful for selection due to injury but have been given a chance to pull through for Sunday’s match.
Waitakere United have racked up 12 wins and one defeat from their previous 13 encounters with Waikato FC dating back to 2006.
Three of Waikato FC’s four victories over Waitakere United came during Declan EDGE’s first tenure as coach in 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. The only other win over Waitakere was a 2-1 win notched at Centennial Park in Ngaruawahia in 2008-09 season.
ASB Premiership - Round 11
Sunday 12 February, 2012
1- Danny ROBINSON (GK)
1- Mark FULCHER (GK)
2- Jason ROWLEY
2- Tyler LISSETTE
4- Tim MYERS
3- Jesse SMITH
7- Martin BULLOCK
4- Mohammad AWAD
8- Chris BALE
6- Mike KRAMER
10- Allan PEARCE
7- Jason HICKS
11- Ross McKENZIE
8- Matteo BALLAN
12- Roy KRISHNA
9- Michael MAYNE
14- Andy BEVIN
10- Adam THOMAS (c)
17- Jake BUTLER (c)
14- Josh GREENE
20- Ryan de VRIES
15- Harry EDGE
22- Matt UPTON (GK)
19- Jesse EDGE
25- Sean LOVEMORE
21- Tyler BOYD
26- Reece LAMBERT
23- Jordan SHAW
27- Ross HAVILAND
24- Ryan THOMAS
30 - Rory TURNER
25- Danyon DRAKE (GK)