By Bob Pearce / asbpremiership.co.nz
AUCKLAND - What a difference a year has made in the fortunes of the pride of West Auckland, as Waitakere United, prepare to take on YoungHeart Manawatu on Saturday.
At this stage of last season’s ASB Premiership fans at the Fred, used to seeing of any visitors in style, were beginning to worry about their team’s frailties.
Things got worse as the champions faded to third place in the league and lost their way in the O-League.
Two wins, away to Canterbury in the semifinals and at Trusts Stadium against Team Wellington in the Grand Final, saved their season and they haven’t looked back.
Under new coach Paul Marshall they beat rivals Auckland City in the pre-season Charity Cup and they have dropped only two points in the Premiership to be five points clear at the top of the table with nine rounds played.
Goalkeeper Danny Robinson, who will become the first custodian to make 100 appearances in the Premiership, has conceded only six goals in that competition.
Newcomer Irishman Brian Shelley has tightened the defence after taking over the central role, but it is the revival of two old favourites that has set the scoreboard spinning.
Roy Krishna has nine goals to head the Golden Boot standings and you can imagine that embattled Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert might prefer to have the speedy Fijian instead of a Belgian biscuit as part of his crumbling attack.
Allan Pearce eclipsed the legendary Keryn Jordan’s scoring record early in the season and currently has six goals as he recaptures the form of a couple of seasons ago.
Both had hat-tricks last weekend as Waitakere thrashed the luckless Waikato United 9-1 at Porritt Stadium.
“We’ve been promising to do it all season,” said coach Marshall. “In the first half hour every time we went forward we scored. The second half wasn’t as good but we were still creating chances and we probably should have scored 12. To be honest we played very well.”
With a home game against the bottom-placed club is it time to experiment and rest some players?
“Why would you rest players when there are only 14 games and we’ve just come off a one-month break? We need more games not fewer.”
Marshall has a strong squad to call on despite injuries to star signing David Mulligan, Daniel Morgan and Luis Del Monte. Former Golden Boot winner George Slefendorfas was surplus to requirements but new hirings include Japanese Masaki Nomoto, Tristan Prattley from Otago and Daniel Jones from Marshall’s last coaching gig at Three Kings.
The 24-year-old Nomoto, an attacking midfielder from Australian club Parramatta, impressed with 20 minutes against Waikato and might get a start this week.
YoungHeart Manawatu, after starting the season with a win, have since lost eight on the trot, the latest a 5-1 defeat by Hawke's Bay United.
There were some excuses on that occasion with the absence through suspension of top scorer Tom Mosquera, Alex Rufer and Dale Higham, who were victims of the red mist in the previous game.
Mosquera and Rufer are named in the squad for the Waitakere clash but Nathan Cooksley will be sitting this one out after getting two yellows against the Bay.
Tom MOSQUERA, Alex RUFER and Matt CLARKE
David MULLIGAN and Dan MORGAN both injured.
ROBINSON has the most appearances in the ASB Premiership for a goalkeeper (99) and his nearest challenger is the retired Ross NICHOLSON who racked up 97 appearances with Auckland City and YoungHeart Manawatu. Chad COOMBES will make his 120th ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected.
Tom MOSQUERA and Alex RUFER return from suspension while there is a call up for Academy goalkeeper Matt CLARKE with Ben WILKES unavailable. Nathan COOKSLEY is suspended and Tyson BRANDT is out with a knee injury.
Goalkeeper Danny ROBINSON makes his 100th ASB Premiership career appearance this Sunday and becomes the first glove man to reach the milestone. Daniel MORGAN and David MULLIGAN’s injury woes continue with both missing this match. Masaki NOMOTO is set for his Waitakere United debut.
YoungHeart Manawatu lost 5-0 to Waitakere United in Round 3 and they haven’t beaten the West Aucklanders since 2007/08 season. Liam HIGGINS is one caution away from suspension. Manawatu have won two, drawn four and lost 31 of their last 37 ASB Premiership matches
ASB Premiership - Round 10
Saturday 26 January, 2013
1- Danny ROBINSON (GK)
1- Matt BORREN (GK)
2- Aaron SCOTT
2- Liam HIGGINS
4- Tim MYERS
3- Wade RANDLE
5- Brian SHELLEY
4- Kade SCHRIJVERS
6- Matt CUNNEEN
9- Seule SOROMON
8- Chad COOMBES
10- Adam COWAN (c)
9- Milos NIKOLIC
11- Tom MOSQUERA
10- Allan PEARCE
12- Khair JONES
12- Roy KRISHNA
13- Michael FRASER
15- Salesh KUMAR
15- Billy SCOTT
17- Jake BUTLER (c)
17- Jordan MARTENS
18- Sam MATHEWS
19- Matt CLARKE (GK)
20- Ryan de VRIES
20- Sam REDWOOD
21- Dylan STANSFIELD
22- Grant ROBSON
25- Masaki NOMOTO
25- Alex RUFER
28- Alex CARR (GK)