By NZF Staff Writer / asbpremiership.co.nz
WELLINGTON - Team Wellington gets a second bite at the playoff cherry when they host Auckland City at David Farrington Park on Sunday.
Beaten 3-2 in a dramatic clash with the navy blues on Waitangi Day, Wellington have run out of wriggle room in pursuit of Canterbury United and a coveted playoff position.
Coach Matt Calcott was delighted with his team's brave showing at Kiwitea Street despite going down to ten men when skipper Adam McGeorge was sent off on 34 minutes.
But with the capital men trailing Canterbury by six points with just three games remaining, Wellington can't afford any more hard luck stories.
By contrast, the visitors have their own issues to sort through.
Conceding the first goal has become an unwelcome habit for Auckland City this season, as has their profligacy in front of goal.
Top scorer Manel Exposito has six goals from ten games this season, but he isn't threatening the ASB Premiership Golden Boot race where Waitakere United's Roy Krishna (12) and Hawke's Bay United's Sean Lovemore (10) have hit double figures.
With Wellington backed into a corner and Auckland's lack of title winning firepower, not to mention a defensive fragility exposed again on Wednesday, could mean Sunday's game could go the way of the Waitangi Day re-match could turn into another thriller.
Auckland City haven't won in Wellington since the playoffs first leg in 2010/11 season when they won 2-0 courtesy of goals by Exposito and Luis Corrales.
To add further intrigue, Corrales transferred back to Team Wellington, his first club in the ASB Premiership, for family reasons.
Such is Corrales affinity with the navy blues, he chose to sit out the Waitangi Day game, but is likely to feature prominently in the return.
The addition of Corrales, coupled with the impressive Henry Fa'arodo and Cory Chettleburgh, mean Wellington are in no shortage of attacking weapons themselves.
Defensively they have shored up their defence with goalkeeper Scott Basalaj in outstanding form this year, conceding only two goals in four games.
Canterbury's trip to Hawke's Bay United carries extra spice with the Bay chasing a win that will give them an historic playoff berth, meaning should the Dragons lose and Wellington win, the points spread heading into the final two matches of the regular season will be just three between fourth and fifth place.
For that to eventuate, Team Wellington must replicate their outstanding form from last season when they beat Auckland City 4-1 over two legs in the playoffs - the question is, can they do it?
Alec SOLOMONS returns from suspension after sitting out Wednesday’s match. Luis CORRALES could make an emotional return against a club he spent three seasons with.
Alex FENERIDIS returns to the squad after sitting out the Waitangi Day Round 5 Catch Up match at Kiwitea Street on Wednesday.
Adam McGEORGE is suspended after his red card on Waitangi Day’s Round 5 Catch Up match at Kiwitea Street. Tom DOYLE is suspended.
Dan SARIC drops out of the Match Day squad.
Scott BASALAJ has conceded just two goals in 360 minutes of action in 2013.
James PRITCHETT is bracketed for inclusion.
Team Wellington is undefeated at home to Auckland City since the semi-final 1st leg of season 2010/11. They have won one and drawn one at home to Auckland City since then.
Auckland City’s last win over Team Wellington in the capital was back in 2011. Ivan VICELICH rides a suspension tight rope having picked up three cautions this season. This is a must win game for the navy blues who trail Waitakere United by seven points in the race for the minor premiership.
ASB Premiership - Round 12
Sunday 10 February, 2013
1- Scott BASALAJ (GK)
1- Jacob SPOONLEY (GK)
2- Tim SCHAEFFERS
2- Simon ARMS
4- Darren CHERITON
3- Takuya IWATA
7- Wiremu PATRICK
7- James PRITCHETT
9- Cory CHETTLEBURGH
8- Chris BALE
10- Henry FA'ARODO
9- Manel EXPOSITO
11- Adam THOMAS
10- Gustavo Souto SAMPEDRO
13- Karl WHALEN
11- Daniel KOPRIVCIC
14- Dominic ROWE
12- Tamati WILLIAMS (GK)
15- Luis CORRALES
13- Alex FENERIDIS
20- Luke ROWE
14- Adam DICKINSON
21- Justin GULLEY
15- Ivan VICELICH (c)
22- Hamish WATSON
16- Albert RIERA
23- Tom BISS
17- Pedro Santa Cecilia GARCIA
24- Alec SOLOMONS
20- Emiliano TADE
25- Daniel CLARKE (GK)
21- David BROWNE
22- Andrew MILNE
25- Dean LAUSEV