By John Donnachie / asbpremiership.co.nz
CHRISTCHURCH - Team Wellington head to Christchurch on Sunday with their play-off aspirations hanging by a thread.
Last year's grand finalists, are almost certain to miss out on the business end of the season, for the first time since 2007, if they can't beat Canterbury.
Defeat, would leave the capital side a mammoth 12 points behind Canterbury, and while they have a game in hand, that is against an in-form Auckland City.
With fellow play-off rivals Hawke's Bay, also holding a commanding position, Coach Matt Calcott, is fully aware of the gravity of the situation.
“We don't need to be reminded about those stats. We are running out of time, but we need to be positive as possible. [The match] it will be a good spectacle,” he said.
Calcott can take heart from the Dragons last two outings at home. The red and blacks have been convincingly beaten by both Auckland clubs, and they're impregnability at ASB Football Park is under threat.
“I've watched footage of them (Canterbury) and we will look to attack them in certain areas. But to win, we will have to do well in all areas,”he said.
The Wellington coach cited a lack of continuity in team selection as one of his main woes this season. “We have had to make 3 or 4 changes every week, It's not easy getting combinations going,”he said.
There is some good news however. Darren Cheriton and Adam Thomas have been added to the squad since the transfer window opened, and Calcott mentioned, there could be others.
Otherwise, team selection will be determined by training sessions on Thursday and Saturday morning.
The Dragons meanwhile, are not in panic mode. Despite recent disappointing losses, they have beaten Wellington already this season. And will take comfort from the fact their opponents have scored a measly 8 goals- the lowest tally in the league.
Captain, Dan Terris, said the Dragons defence were still “doing okay as a unit”. While communication had been lacking at times, it was no coincidence, they had leaked goals to the best teams in the land. “They( Auckland & Waitakere) score goals for fun. Other teams don't punish you like they do,” he said.
Terris has no doubts, that three points will virtually guarantee a play-off berth. “They need to win; and so do we. It's a massive match really, like a cup final, and we need to put it to bed,” he said.
The versatile defender is struggling with a minor calf tear and rated his chances of playing at 50/50. Dragons play-maker Aaron Clapham is suspended, while new signing Nathan Knox, could feature from the start.
Match kicks off at 2pm.
Goalkeeper Danny KNIGHT and skipper Dan TERRIS returns to the fold.
All Whites midfielder Aaron CLAPHAM is suspended while Tom BATTY makes way
Aaron CLAPHAM’s run of eight consecutive appearances for the Dragons ends with his suspension for this match. Adam HIGHFIELD makes his 70th ASB Premiership appearance, if selected.
Team Wellington face an anxious wait as Adam McGEORGE and Tobias BERTSCH are added to an extended squad list while the Football School of Excellence players will be assessed on Thursday night following the Wellington Phoenix ‘A’ showdown with YoungHeart Manawatu in Palmerston North tonight.
The Gordon Cup is up for grabs and was first competed for by Canterbury and Wellington back in 1954.
Team Wellington’s last ASB Premiership victory was on November 25, 2012, when they defeated YoungHeart Manawatu 3-1. Wellington have lost three and drawn one of their previous four matches with Canterbury United. Their last victory over the Dragons was a 2-1 win in Christchurch in 2010/11 season. The Gordon Cup is up for grabs and was first competed for by Canterbury and Wellington back in 1954.
ASB Premiership - Round 9
1- Danny KNIGHT (GK)
1- Scott BASALAJ (GK)
2- Dan TERRIS (c)
2- Tim SCHAEFFERS
4- Nick WORTELBOER
3- Jamie DUNCAN
5- Tom SCHWARZ
4- Darren CHERITON
6- Chris MURPHY
5- Andy DAMGAARD
7- Darren WHITE
7- Wiremu PATRICK
9- Russell KAMO
8- Adam McGEORGE
11- Michael FIFII
9- Cory CHETTLEBURGH
12- Andy BARTON
10- Henry FA'ARODO
13- Nathan KNOX
13- Karl WHALEN
14- Josh SMITH
15- Julyan COLLETT
18- Tobias BERTSCH
16- Ashley WELLBOURN
20- Luke ROWE
19- Louie BUSH
21- Justin GULLEY
20- Ken YAMAMOTO
22- Hamish WATSON
22- Adam HIGHFIELD (GK)
23- Tom BISS
24- Alec SOLOMONS
25- Daniel CLARKE (GK)