By Bob Pearce / asbpremiership.co.nz
AUCKLAND - Fred Taylor Park may not be the fortress it once was for Waitakere United but it still offers few favours to visiting teams.
Team Wellington come to the Fred on Sunday for a crucial ASB Premiership clash knowing that Waitakere have conceded only three goals at home this season – and all of those were to Premiership leaders Auckland City.
But the West Aucklanders may be vulnerable to the capital challenge after suffering a 3-0 O-League defeat at the hands of Tefana in Tahiti last weekend.
“Conceding a goal after 22s was a killer blow,” said coach Neil Emblen. “We’d set up more defensive than usual because we didn’t need to chase the game, but then we fell to a sucker punch in the first minute.
“There was definitely a hand ball in the lead-up but Tefana were the better team on the night and deserved their win.”
Emblen concedes there is some soul-searching by the ASB Premiership champions, who are one point ahead of Team Wellington in third place but with a far superior goal difference.
The minor championship is probably out of reach but Canterbury United are only one point ahead in the second place that can be an O-League passport.
“We’re still in control of our own destiny,” said Emblen. “It’s definitely not over yet. We’ve talked about it this week and we’re going to give it our all.”
The hard-fought match in Tefana left Jason Rowley with a sore back and captain Jake Butler with a knee injury. Both will need fitness tests. Aaron Scott, who has been out since November, is close to match fit.
Emblen, who has had a close look at the Team Wellington team through his coaching role with the New Zealand under-23 team, has healthy respect for Matt Calcott’s side.
“They’re having a great season and they clearly recruited well. They’ll be up for it on Sunday but so will we.”
The under-23 campaign in Australia has had its effect on both squads with the young players involved not due back in Auckland until Saturday afternoon. Emblen himself has been racking up the air miles as he combines his O-League and national responsibilities.
“The preparation for both teams has not been ideal. I think Wellington will be training up here on Saturday with their players back from Australia.”
Team Wellington have some impressive fire power. Louis Fenton scored four against Hawkes Bay and Solomon Islander Henry Fa’arodo and Ethan Galbraith can present a challenge to any defence. Dakota Lucas, back on his old home turf after scoring twice for Waitakere in the Grand Final last season, will be keen to show the locals what they’re missing.
Coach Calcott has his feet firmly on the ground at the prospect of finals football and O-League chances. He wants his squad to focus on the game in front of them and take care of what they can control without dreaming of the things they can’t.
This appeals as one of the games of the season, with an old dog defending its patch after more than the usual dents to its pride.
Jordan VALE, Gagame FENI and Matt CUNNEEN are named in the squad
Coach Matt CALCOTT calls upon Justin GULLEY, Tim SCHAEFFERS and Michael FIFII to bolster the squad.
Reece LAMBERT (hamstring) is missing through injury. Aaron SCOTT continues his rehabilitation and could be only three weeks away from a comeback. SCOTT overcame a knee injury but rolled an ankle at training.
James MUSA is suspended.
Jason ROWLEY (back) and Jake BUTLER (knee) are both doubtful starters for Sunday.
Louis FENTON returns to Team Wellington alongside fellow Oly-Whites Dakota LUCAS, Scott BASALAJ, James MUSA, Michael EAGAR and Ethan GALBRAITH.
Waitakere United have won four of the last four matches between these two sides.
The visitors have only beaten Waitakere United twice on the road. That includes a 4-1 win (2006) and a 2-1 win (2007). Since that last victory, Wellington has lost five away games straight with Waitakere United.
ASB Premiership - Round 12
Sunday 26 February, 2012
1- Danny ROBINSON (GK)
1- Phil IMRAY (GK)
2- Jason ROWLEY
2- Tim SCHAEFFERS
4- Tim MYERS
3- Jamie DUNCAN
7- Martin BULLOCK
4- Michael EAGAR
8- Chris BALE
5- Johnny RAJ
10- Allan PEARCE
6- Darren CHERITON
11- Ross McKENZIE
7- Patrick WIREMU
12- Roy KRISHNA
9- Patrick FLEMING
14- Andy BEVIN
10- Dakota LUCAS
15- Gagame FENI
11- Henry FA'ARODO
17- Jake BUTLER (c)
12- Ethan GALBRAITH
20- Ryan de VRIES
13- Karl WHALEN
22- Matt UPTON (GK)
15- Sam MASON-SMITH
25- Sean LOVEMORE
17- Dominic ROWE
27- Ross HAVILAND
18- Michael FIFII
29- Jordan VALE
20- Luke ROWE
30- Rory TURNER
22- Justin GULLEY
- two to be omitted
23- Louid FENTON
25- Scott BASALAJ (GK)
- three to be omitted