By Matt Barnes / asbpremiership.co.nz
PALMERSTON NORTH - League leaders Waitakere United look to continue their perfect start to the season as they travel to Palmerston North to play a resurgent Youngheart Manawatu this Sunday.
After first-up wins over Wellington and Waikato, only goal difference is keeping the defending champions from the top of the ASB Premiership table.
Despite the early success, coach Paul Marshall is cautious in his appraisal of his side and believes there is plenty of room for improvement.
"We're a new squad,” said Marshall, "we have 17 new players in a squad of 25, so that's a huge change in personnel and it's just taking a bit of time for those players to gel and come together as we want from a staff perspective."
It is a star-studded line-up, including the powerful midfield pairing of All White caps Chad Coombes and David Mulligan.
Up front Waitakere boast the lively Roy Krishna and Allan Pearce, the all-time leading goal scorer in the ASB Premiership.
But perhaps the real strength of the team is its depth.
"We've got a very good squad," said Marshall. "On any given week we’ve got players that can step in and it doesn't really weaken the team. We can also change things up a little bit, we've got a number of different plans we can move to with the types of players we've got that can play in different areas."
This Sunda they hit Youngheart Manawatu, who have also had a promising start to their campaign.
After a winless 2011 season and a run of 28 matches with just a single victory to point toward, the club opened this season with an excellent 3-0 away win over Otago.
Although last week saw a 4-2 loss away to Hawke's Bay, the youthful team rallied strongly after being down 4-0 soon after half-time and will head into their first home game with confidence.
Manawatu striker Tom Mosquera is in red-hot form with his four goals from the opening two games establishing him as top scorer in the league this season along with Hawke's Bay's Sean Lovemore.
His hat-trick against Otago was Manawatu's first since Michael White against Waikato away back in December, 2010.
Mosquera will have his work cut out on Sunday, facing the league’s most miserly defence.
The Waitekere backline, marshalled by veteran English 'keeper Danny Robinson has been impressive already and the side remain the only team in the Premiership yet to concede a goal.
And Marshall has ominous words for the opposition.
"We've got great balance to the squad, there’s no question about that and now it’s just a case of getting us to gel on the pitch. Once that happens, we could be very good."
Manawatu will be hoping that does not occur this Sunday.
The match kicks off at 2pm on Sunday at Memorial Park.
George SLEFENDORFAS and Jack BEGUELY are called up for duty.
Sam MATHEWS (hamstring) and Matt CUNNEEN (eye) bow out due to injury
YoungHeart Manawatu coach Stu JACOBS sticks by the players from last week with Lewis CUMBER retaining his spot after a goal scoring ASB Premiership debut off the bench on Sunday. Adam COWAN makes his 134th ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected.
Jack BEGUELY is in line for his Waitakere United debut.
YoungHeart Manawatu is winless in their previous nine matches with Waitakere United. Their last win over the champions was a 3-2 victory in Palmerston North in 2007/08 season. Last season, Manawatu lost to Waitakere 7-2 and 6-1. Their last three matches with the visitors yielded an aggregate of 23 goals against, four for.
Eight wins, one draw in nine previous encounters with YoungHeart Manawatu suggest the visitors and defending champions are firm favourites to stretch that run to ten games in a row. Their last four matches with the home side have yielded an aggregate of 23 goals for and just four against.
ASB Premiership - Round 3
1- Matt BORREN (GK)
1- Danny ROBINSON (GK)
2- Liam HIGGINS
2- Aaron SCOTT
4- Kade SCHRIJVERS
3- Jack BEGUELY
5- Andy FRAMPTON
4- Tim MYERS
7- Josh CHETTLEBURGH
5- Brian SHELLEY
8- Nathan COOKSLEY
7- David MULLIGAN
9- Seule SOROMON
8- Chad COOMBES
10- Adam COWAN (c)
9- George SLEFENDORFAS
11- Tom MOSQUERA
10- Allan PEARCE
14- Tyson BRANDT
12- Roy KRISHNA
17- Jordan MARTENS
16- Maksim MANKO
18- Dale HIGHAM
17- Jake BUTLER (c)
19- Ben WILKES(GK)
19- Dan MORGAN
20- Sam REDWOOD
20- Ryan de VRIES
22- Grant ROBSON
22- Louie CAUNTER (GK)
23- Lewis CUMBER
24- Harshae RANIGA