By Bob Pearce / asbpremiership.co.nz
AUCKLAND - “If anyone’s not performing they can come and sit next to me on the bench.”
Top of the table and taking no prisoners Waitakere United coach Paul Marshall wants no complacency ahead of the game with Otago United on Sunday.
The Southerners have yet to win a game and are kept off the bottom of the ASB Premiership table only by battle-scarred Waikato FC.
“You can’t underestimate any opponent,” said Marshall. “You’ve got to perform to your best and stick to your game plan. If we do that we’ll be fine.”
Since taking over at the start of the season, Marshall has upped the intensity of the training regime at the club.
No one has benefitted more than captain Jake Butler, who has lost a lot of weight, and was outstanding in the draw with Auckland City last week – and not just for his superb strike from distance that gave Waitakere the lead.
“We’re fit and we’re lasting games much better than the opposition,” said Marshall.
”Football is a huge aerobic game. You’ll see it all over the world. The big difference between the professional teams, who train five times a week, and the amateurs is fitness.”
Waitakere will be without Daniel Morgan this week and potentially for longer after he aggravated an old knee injury. But there is plenty of depth in the Waitakere squad and competition for places is intense.
Otago coach Richard Murray is well aware of what awaits his team at Fred Taylor Park.
“We conceded 11 goals in two games against them last year,” he said ruefully.
“We’ve got to get in their faces and deny them space. If we don’t they have the speed to punish us.”
The results have been disappointing but Murray believes his team are better than the Premiership table would indicate. And he has a point.
Only a late flurry of goals and a controversial red card allowed Auckland City to fly out of Dunedin with three points and last weekend in Napier Otago were well in the hunt until halftime.
“We’ve missed out on a bit of luck,” said Murray. “We played really well up to halftime against Hawkes Bay but then lost our concentration after the break. We had the beating of Auckland all game but lost out to a decision by the man in the middle.”
Otago have never had the player riches of the Auckland clubs but there is an experienced look to their squad, which includes such familiar talents as Tristan Prattley and Aaron Burgess.
Goalkeeper Liam Little, no stranger to the Fred, is back this week and will be hoping to continue the home-town hex on strikers that has plagued Waitakere for much of the season.
They wasted plenty of chances in their 1-0 win over Waikato and Butler’s first-half missile was their only reward as they ran the Auckland defence ragged last week. Should Roy Krishna, Ryan De Vries and Allan Pearce find their range, Little will be in for a busy afternoon.
Liam LITTLE and Ant HANCOCK return from injury
Victor da COSTA rehabilitates a knee injury.
Jake BUTLER will make his 115th ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected – he has 17 goals to his name. Luiz del MONTE is poised to make his 50th ASB Premiership career appearance, if he can overcome injury. David MULLIGAN was named in the ASB Premiership Team of the Month.
Tom CONNOR made his 50th ASB Premiership career appearance in last Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to Hawke’s Bay United. Matt JOY was named in the ASB Premiership Team of the Month.
Waitakere United is on a 16 match unbeaten run over Otago United and their solitary defeat to the southerners was seven years ago when the West Aucklanders slumped to a 0-1 defeat in Dunedin.
Otago United has travelled to West Auckland ten times and lost ten times, surrendering a total of 30 points out of 30 spanning eight years. The 16-match winless streak includes two draws and 14 defeats stretching back to 2005.
ASB Premiership - Round 5
Sunday 2 December, 2012
1- Danny ROBINSON (GK)
1- Liam LITTLE (GK)
2- Aaron SCOTT
3- Tristan PRATTLEY (c)
3- Jack BEGUELY
4- Ben FITZPATRICK
4- Tim MYERS
5- Matt JOY
5- Brian SHELLEY
8- Seamus RYDER
6- Matt CUNNEEN
10- Ant HANCOCK
7- David MULLIGAN
12- Aaron BURGESS
8- Chad COOMBES
14- Sam MEPHAM
9- George SLEFENDORFAS
15- Tom CONNOR
10- Allan PEARCE
17- Tim HORNER
12- Roy KRISHNA
18- Scott GANNON
16- Maksim MANKO
20- Andy RIDDEN
17- Jake BUTLER (c)
21- Joel STEVENS
20- Ryan de VRIES
23- Regan COLDICOTT
21- Dylan STANSFIELD
25- Craig FERGUSON
22- Louie CAUNTER (GK)
27- Morgan DAY