By Bob Pearce / asbpremiership.co.nz
AUCKLAND - Auckland City will have their latest Spanish recruit on show when they host Hawkes Bay United in the ASB Premiership on Sunday.
Ivan Diaz has been training with the Auckland squad for a month but as he had been playing professionally he had to observe a 30-day stand down period before he could take the field for the Sandringham side.
He joins the side as a replacement for Andre Guerao, who joined Tbilisi at the end of the year, and will fit in as an attacking midfielder.
Up until January he had been playing with a second division club in the Spanish league. He spent his under-18 years with Barcelona and was coached at one stage by Auckland City coach, Ramon Tribulietx.
Tribulietx will also have David Mulligan back from injury but goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley is still a week away and Argentinian striker Emiliano Tade is still away because of a family illness.
A win for Auckland would clinch the minor championship and they must start as favourites after a 7-3 win in their O-League clash with Koloale at Kiwitea St last Saturday. But Tribulietx wasn’t happy with that last win despite the scoreline.
“The players weren’t happy either,” he said. “It’s good to win a game and to score seven goals but defensively we were not that accurate and we’ve had a chat about that.”
On a perfect afternoon for football, they sprayed passes with a generosity they rarely show and left themselves vulnerable to fast breaks by the incomparable Benji Totori and his fleet-footed fellows. Sure they scored a hatful of goals but some fumble-footed finishes in the second half would be costly in a closer encounter.
Auckland won the previous clash with Hawkes Bay in Napier 3-1 but that was a catch-up game played as a 48-hour follow-up that tested both sides’ endurance as much as their skill.
Bay coach Chris Greatholder has his team humming to his tune after taking over at short notice from Matt Chandler early in the season.
“We’re in good shape. We’ve won four out of the last six and we’ve got a lot of self-belief,” he said. “We’ll miss Steve Hindmarsh, who’s suspended because he’s been very strong in our central midfield.”
Hawke's Bay’s chances of making the Top Four probably hang on the result of the Waitakere-Wellington game but Greatholder isn’t losing any sleep over things that he can’t control.
“We’ve got 16 points now and 19 is the most we’ve ever had in an eight-team league so all we can do is keep pressure on the teams above us. Anything else is a bonus.”
Last season Hawke's Bay came within a feather of breaking their duck and making the playoffs. Canterbury United scored an emotion-driven last-minute win over Auckland City that put them into the playoffs when the Bay couldn’t win their last game.
Greatholder and his men would be happy to show the Kiwitea faithful that visitors can enjoy more than their hospitality at the crunch time of the season.
Hawke's Bay United
David MULLIGAN, Angel BERLANGA and Ivan DIAZ are drafted into the squad.
Mario ILLICH and Riki van STEEDEN are replaced
Matt GOULD (shoulder) and Rudi BAUERFIEND (broken arm) are both injured.
Jacob SPOONLEY (knee) remains on the injured list while Emiliano TADE is in Argentina following a family illness.
Stephen HINDMARCH is suspended while Leon BIRNIE returns to the ground where he scored a brace in 2004.
Auckland City has a proud unbeaten record at home with Hawke’s Bay United that includes seven wins and a draw from eight previous encounters.
Hawke’s Bay United needs at least a point from this visit to Kiwitea Street to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. History shows that will be a tough task with the Bay’s best previous result a 3-3 draw back in 2005 when a goal by Chris McIVOR and a Leon BIRNIE brace grabbed a share of the spoils.
ASB Premiership - Round 12
Hawke's Bay United
12- Tamati WILLIAMS (GK)
1- Richard GILLESPIE (GK)
5- Angel BERLANGA
2- Fergus NEIL
6- Chad COOMBES
4- Stu WILSON
7- James PRITCHETT
5- Bill ROBERTSON (c)
8- David MULLIGAN
7- Matt HASTINGS
9- Manel EXPOSITO
8- Adam COWAN
10- Luis CORRALES
10- Sam MARGETTS
11- Daniel KOPRIVCIC
11- Conor TINNION
13- Alex FENERIDIS
12- Dale HIGHAM
14- Adam DICKINSON
14- Danny WILSON
15- Ivan VICELICH (c)
17- Tom BISS
16- Albert RIERA
18- Hamish WATSON
19- Iwa SHAKER
20- Leon BIRNIE
21- Ivan RUIZ
21- Josh MARGETTS
22- Andrew MILNE
22- Jerome GROOT
23- Simon ARMS
26- Shaun PETA (GK)
24- Stephen CARMICHAEL
26- Liam ANDERSON (GK)