By Niall Anderson / asbpremiership.co.nz
HAMILTON - Festive cheer has been thin on the ground for Waikato FC and it won't get any easier when they take on defending champions Waitakere United on Sunday.
After two impressive victories before the holiday break, Waikato have resumed their ASB Premiership campaign with two heavy defeats, going down 4-1 to Auckland City and 4-0 to Hawke’s Bay United.
Waikato FC coach Mark Cossey, who missed the first half of the Hawke’s Bay game due to flight problems, says his team aren’t at their peak.
“The second half was pretty similar to what happened against Auckland. Our fitness told in the end, we haven’t got a lot of personnel, as our hands have been tied with people leaving.
"The boys are digging deep and doing the best they can with what they’ve got but we just couldn’t compete for 90 minutes," he said.
Cossey has signed fullback Jesse Smith and is trialling several hopefuls as response to more defections from inside the Waikato FC camp, while Whakatane youngster Wade Maloney made his debut off the bench last week.
“We are very very limited with resources but we’ve filled our quota up. A lot of our signings haven’t been training, their pre-season starts now so they might need a few weeks [to be match ready]," Cossey said.
Waikato will draw confidence from having put up a good fight in a 1-0 loss to Waitakere earlier this season, but their opponents boast a fearsome attacking unit, with Roy Krishna and David Mulligan having scored 11 goals between them, while the competition’s historical leading marksman Allan Pearce also lines up for the Paul Marshall-coached outfit.
Having only lost two points all season, Cossey knows they will be extremely tough opponents.
He said: “Waitakere and Auckland City are the teams that all franchises should look up to. We’ve got to make sure we have a gameplan that we stick to.
"We can’t go leaking four goals again, we just have to shut them out and hold on and see what comes up.”
Waitakere United have made a move for New Zeaand U-23 international and Otago United stalwart Tristan Prattley as the West Aucklanders seek to strengthen their grip on the minor premiership title chase.
The match kicks off at 2pm on Sunday, at Porrit Stadium.
Tristan PRATTLEY (transfer pending)
Salesh KUMAR is dropped and Waitakere is without the injured David MULLIGAN (neck/back) and Daniel MORGAN (knee).
Rory TURNER is set for his 17th ASB Premiership career appearance against his former club Waitakere United, if selected.
Former All Whites defender Aaron SCOTT returns to the squad.
Waikato FC has lost consecutive matches conceding eight goals and scoring only once in 2013.. Only Manawatu has a worse defensive record with Waikato FC conceding 23 goals in eight games at just under three per game.
Danny ROBINSON makes his 99th ASB Premiership career appearance against his former club Waikato FC. Waitakere United can make it 12 games undefeated stretching back to last season if they avoid defeat – their previous best unbeaten run is 20 matches between 2007 and 2009.
ASB Premiership - Round 9
1- Matt UPTON (GK)
1- Danny ROBINSON (GK)
2- Jesse SMITH
2- Aaron SCOTT
3- Jordan SHAW
3- Jack BEGUELY
5- Eder FRANCHINI
4- Tim MYERS
6- Sam JASPER
5- Brian SHELLEY
7- Gurjeep SINGH
6- Matt CUNNEEN
8- Robbie GREENHALGH
8- Chad COOMBES
9- Rory TURNER
10- Allan PEARCE
11- Jack HOBSON-McVEIGH
11- Luiz del MONTE
12- Jason MANN (GK)
12- Roy KRISHNA
16- Elliot COLLIER
17- Jake BUTLER (c)
17- Mark JONES
18- Sam MATHEWS
18- Alexi Caroama VARELA
20- Ryan de VRIES
19- Dave PARKINSON
21- Dylan STANSFIELD
21- Raymond HOW
25- Milos NIKOLIC
23- Hone FOWLER
25- Alex CARR (GK)