By Matt Barnes / asbpremiership.co.nz
PALMERSTON NORTH – The two bottom teams on the ASB Premiership ladder clash this weekend with Youngheart Manawatu and Otago United both desperate to start 2013 with a victory.
For hosts Manawatu, the 2012-2013 season has already been a marked improvement over a 2011-2012 campaign that saw the side fail to register a win and suffer many heavy defeats.
This season, the team has been much more competitive and for coach Stu Jacobs, the focus is on turning performances into results.
“We’re targeting the second round to get some points and improve our position,” said Jacobs.
“For us, it starts this weekend at home because we haven’t won there for a couple of seasons. It’s an important game for us.”
The only win for Manawatu in round one of this season was against Otago in Dunedin, making this a match Youngheart has targeted for a potential three points.
“We need the wins,” said Jacobs. “We haven’t learnt how to win games and I think that’s the toughest thing when you’re in the position we’re in.”
“Even when you play well, sometimes it’s a little hard to take those gilt-edged chances we’ve had in games until you’re in that winning habit. I think we’re close, we just have to go that extra bit now.”
For Otago, the match is equally critical.
After securing its first win of the season away to Team Wellington the side stumbled badly, crashing 6-1 to a resurgent Waikato FC at home.
Clashing with the fellow cellar-dwellers this weekend is an opportunity for Otago to return to what had been a steadily improving run of performances.
Otago narrowly lost to perennial contenders Canterbury United 2-1, whilst also holding leads over heavy-hitters Auckland City and Waitakere United before succumbing in both matches.
The season to date may have been a trying one for both sides, but Jacobs remains focussed on the positive.
“We’ve now had a good look at all the teams in the competition and, without being too brash, I think we’re in a position that if we go into the second round with the same application and attitude we’re a chance in most of the games.”
The transfer window for the ASB Premiership is next week, which can often be a mixed blessing for cash-strapped clubs.
For Manawatu, they will be looking to promote players from their own youth system.
These include highly-rated youngster Alex Rufer, son of former All White and Youngheart Manawatu coach Shane Rufer.
“We don’t have the resources to bring players into the organisation or have them travelling in. So what we have is what we go with and I’m more than happy with that.” said Jacobs.
With two teams desperate for points and with nothing to lose, this Sunday’s match at Memorial Park looms as a close battle.
Josh CHETTLEBURGH is recalled to the squad.
Sam REDWOOD, Matt KENNEDY and Khair JONES are unavailable and
Tristan PRATTLEY, Andy RIDDEN and goalkeeper Peter EVANS are unavailable. Regan COLDICOTT has a back injury.
Tom MOSQUERA has scored seven of YoungHeart’s eight goals this season, Lewis CUMBER the only other Manawatu player to register a goal.
Joel STEVENS – Otago’s top scorer – is injured with a dislocated shoulder that keeps him sidelined for up to a month.
Adam COWAN will make his 141st ASB Premiership career appearance. YoungHeart’s only win this season came in Round 1 when a Tom MOSQEURA hat-trick gave Manawatu a comfortable 3-0 away win at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Otago United’s only win this season was a 1-0 away victory over Team Wellington. Otago’s last visit to Palmerston North produced a 3-2 win last season.
ASB Premiership - Round 8
Sunday 13 January, 2013
1- Matt BORREN (GK)
1- Liam LITTLE (GK)
2- Liam HIGGINS
4- Ben FITZPATRICK
3- Wade RANDLE
7- Morgan DAY
4- Kade SCHRIJVERS
8- Seamus RYDER
7- Josh CHETTLEBURGH
9- Victor da COSTA
8- Nathan COOKSLEY
10- Ant HANCOCK
9- Seule SOROMON
11- James GOVAN
10- Adam COWAN (c)
13- Scott GANNON
11- Tom MOSQUERA
14- Sam MEPHAM
14- Tyson BRANDT
15- Tom CONNOR
15- Billy SCOTT
17- Tim HORNER (c)
17- Jordan MARTENS
19- Geordie MANSFORD
18- Dale HIGHAM
21- Aaron BURGESS
19- Ben WILKES (GK)
24- Jackson MITCHELL
22- Grant ROBSON
23- Lewis CUMBER