By Bob Pearce / asbpremiership.co.nz
AUCKLAND - Morale remains high at Auckland City ahead of their catch-up game on Wednesday against Team Wellington despite the 3-2 loss to champions Waitakere United in the Super City derby.
The reality is that last season’s ASB Premiership minor champions are now playing for second place with Hawkes Bay United two points ahead of them on the table and Canterbury United level on points.
“I think the morale is pretty good,” said coach Ramon Tribulietx. “We feel we played a good game against Waitakere while we acknowledged things that went wrong. I think the reaction on Wednesday is going to be positive. The good thing about football is that it gives you a second chance.
"Reality is that we’re playing for second place, but second place is important as it gives you the home advantage in the playoffs.
“Wellington will be very competitive. They’ve made some good signings and we’re expecting a tough game.”
Missing from the Auckland line-up will be Alex Feneridis, who opened the scoring with a delightful freekick on Saturday but blotted his copybook with a red card in the closing stages.
The capital side have everything to play for as they are six points adrift of a play-off spot.
But they have been heartened by the goal blitz that saw them thrash YoungHeart Manawatu 6-0 on Sunday despite struggling for possession.
Substitute Hamish Watson nabbed two in a scoring spree that has made a nonsense of their early-season goal drought.
The defence, anchored by Alex Solomons, was outstanding and it is a blow for Wednesday’s game at Kiwitea St that Solomons will be suspended. Tom Doyle is the likely replacement.
When Wellington travelled north for the first game of the new season and lost 3-0 to Waitakere at the Fred, coach Matt Calcott promised that he would be bringing a much stronger squad for his next trip to the north. He seems to have delivered on that promise.
“I think we’ve got the balance of the squad right now,” he said. “Earlier we had a lot of younger players as we adjusted to our relationship with the Phoenix. Now we’ve changed the balance with more experienced players.”
One of the problems was failure to capitalise on chances but recent results have boosted confidence in the side.
“Auckland City will be smarting from the loss to Waitakere and they’ve got an extra day to recover. But we’ll be coming north with a fair bit of confidence.”
One Christmas-time addition to the Wellington squad was Luis Corrales, who moved from Auckland City for family reasons.
The clubs had a friendly agreement that he wouldn’t play in this fixture but in any case he is recovering from injury.
Former All Whites defender James PRITCHETT steps into the squad as his replacement.
Two former Auckland City players Tom DOYLE and Adam THOMAS return to Kiwitea Street to face their old club – THOMAS is in line for his Team Wellington debut after leaving Waikato FC during the January transfer window.
Alex FENERIDIS is suspended after his red card in the Super City derby on Sunday.
Alex SOLOMONS is suspended after picking up a caution in last week’s 6-0 thumping of YoungHeart Manawatu.
Manel EXPOSITO is the leading scorer with five goals to his name this season.
Goalkeeper Scott BASALAJ has kept three clean sheets this month.
Auckland City has won 9 and lost three of its last 12 home matches versus Team Wellington. The navy blues have not beaten Team Wellington since 2011.
Team Wellington are on a three match unbeaten run versus Auckland after beating the navy blues 1-0 and 3-1 in last season’s semi-finals and a 1-1 draw in Round 9 of the 2011/12 season.
ASB Premiership - Round 5
Wednesday 6 February, 2013
1- Jacob SPOONLEY (GK)
1- Scott BASALAJ (GK)
2- Simon ARMS
2- Tim SCHAEFFERS
3- Takuya IWATA
4- Darren CHERITON
5- Gustavo Souto SAMPEDRO
7- James PRITCHETT
8- Adam McGEORGE
8- Chris BALE
9- Cory CHETTLEBURGH
9- Manel EXPOSITO
10- Henry FA'ARODO
11- Daniel KOPRIVCIC
12- Tamati WILLIAM (GK)
13- Karl WHALEN
14- Dominic ROWE
15- Ivan VICELICH
18- Tom DOYLE
16- Albert RIERA
20- Luke ROWE
17- Pedro Santa Cecilia GARCIA
21- Justin GULLEY
19- Dan SARIC
22- Hamish WATSON
23- Tom BISS
21- David BROWNE
25- Daniel CLARKE (GK)
22- Andrew MILNE
25- Dean LAUSEV