By Bob Pearce / asbpremiership.co.nz
AUCKLAND - Yo-yo form can be a coach’s nightmare but Waitakere United gaffer Neil Emblen would be happy to ride the upswing in Sunday’s season-defining clash with Canterbury at Fred Taylor Park.
The West Aucklanders come off a 3-2 O-League loss to Ba in Fiji continuing a pattern that has seen them fashioning a six-game record of wins following losses in the ASB Premiership and O-League.
“It’s not good enough,” said Emblen, “but, that said, I hope the trend continues this week.”
As well he might. Sunday’s clash can make or break the season for either club.
Canterbury are one point ahead of Waitakere in second place with two rounds of the regular season to go. At stake is not only a higher finish in the Premiership behind minor champions Auckland City, but also a potential free pass into next season’s O-League.
The final round of the regular season has been postponed until April 8 when Waitakere will be at home to cellar-dwellers YoungHeart Manawatu while Canterbury will entertain Auckland City on their artificial pitch. Should Canterbury win on Sunday that final game would be irrelevant.
Emblen is making no excuses for the defeat in Fiji, where it was hot but there was cloud cover to mitigate the oppressive conditions.
“We were our own worst enemies there,” he said. “We didn’t take our chances and that’s been the story of our season. We’re a good team at home and we’ve won every game except the two against Auckland City.
“Canterbury are a solid team and they’ve got some good players. They seem to have got better every year. They’ll be thinking ‘are they as good as they used to be?’ I say we’ve still got a bit more to come. You can never write off this team and this club. On our day we can beat anyone.”
Despite the tough game in Fiji, Waitakere should have a full roster to choose from. The only fitness doubts surround defenders Jason Rowley and Aaron Scott but both are expected to be available.
While Waitakere have had a tough playing schedule, Canterbury have had a week off that interrupts an unbeaten five-game Premiership run.
“You get into the flow of things and then you stop,” laments coach Keith Braithwaite. “Now we’ve got a must-win game. We beat them 2-1 at home when they had chances but didn’t stick them away. We haven’t won up there recently and we hope to change that.
“There’ll be two sides who like to attack so it should be an open game.”
Braithwaite has minor injury concerns about his strike force, George S'efendorfas, Andy Barton and Russell Kamo, but all are expected to be fit – and that will pose a problem for the Waitakere defence.
Slefendorfas leads the Golden Boot contest with 11 goals while his team-mate Aaron Clapham shares second place with eight.
Slefendorfas missed the Auckland City game in early January through suspension so northerners are keen to have their first look at how the Papua New Guinea-born striker measures up to their own mercurial marksman Roy Krishna.
Goalkeeper Matt UPTON faces a late fitness test while Alan McDONALD is on standby.
Dan TERRIS remains on the long term injured list.
Waitakere United haven’t lost a regular season match to Canterbury United on home soil since Round 10 in the 2005-06 season when they were beaten 2-1. Waitakere has won six, drawn one and lost just once in eight home games with Canterbury since 2004.
Canterbury United have two wins from their last two matches with Waitakere United although both of those victories came in Christchurch. Only one win from eight previous visits to Waitakere is not a great win-loss ratio but its far from mission impossible with Canterbury boasting 7 previous wins over their rivals in total that includes a 4-0 drubbing recorded in 2009-10 season.
ASB Premiership - Round 13
Sunday 11 March, 2012
1- Danny ROBINSON (GK)
1- Tom BATTY (GK)
2- Jason ROWLEY
3- Mark JOHNSTON
3- Aaron SCOTT
4- Nick WORTLEBOER
4- Tim MYERS
5- Tom SCHWARZ
6- Matt CUNNEEN
7- Darren WHITE
7- Martin BULLOCK
8- Aaron CLAPHAM
8- Chris BALE
9- George SLEFENDORFAS
10- Allan PEARCE
10- Russell KAMO
11- Ross McKENZIE
12- Andy BARTON
12- Roy KRISHNA
13- Daniel GLOZIER
15- Gagame FENI
14- Josh SMITH
17- Jake BUTLER (c)
15- Julyan COLLET
20- Ryan de VRIES
17- Joe MURRAY
22- Matt UPTON (GK)
20- Ken YAMAMOTO
25- Sean LOVEMORE
22- Adam HIGHFIELD (GK)
27- Ross HAVILAND
25- Louie BUSH
29- Jordan VALE
30- Rory TURNER
- two to be omitted