By Rab Smith / asbpremiership.co.nz
DUNEDIN - Waitakere United can take a huge stride towards sealing the ASB minor premiership when they visit Otago United on Sunday.
Undefeated in 12 competitive matches stretching back to the last two games of last season, Waitakere United hold few anxieties about an away match with Otago United.
History favours the West Aucklanders heavily with just one solitary loss to Sunday's opponents in nine years of facing the men from the deep south.
The prospect of playing top team Waitakere on Sunday is a daunting prospect for Otago United whose
sixth place in the ASB Premiership is like looking through the wrong end of a telescope at coach Paul Marshall's star studded side.
Waitakere has breezed past second placed Auckland and now leads with a margin of seven points, while Otago United only has a total of six points.
Add the bad news for Otago in losing its inspirational striker Aaron Burgess with a leg fracture last week in the 1-4 loss to Hawke's Bay, and from his couch a frustrated former multi Golden Boot winner can only muse on the fact that the tackle that led to his injury, also earned Burgess a yellow card.
Not for the first time this season, Otago also has a bunch of walking wounded requiring treatment from Physio Dusty Quinn, as he labours to patch up Murray's squad to compete against the best team in the country.
"We still have a few wee injury worries with Matt Joy (toe) Victor da Costa (Ankle) James Govan (hip) Andrew Ridden (dead leg) and Scott Gannon (hamstring). So things could be worse," Murray said.
"But our physio Dusty Quinn still has a big roll of magic strapping tape," he added.
To a certain degree, the Otago Youth team's midweek 1-0 win over Wellington may have helped improve the senior side's team selection, and its no co-incidence that Taylor McCormack's impressive display and well taken goal, may earn the young striker a gallop against Waitakere on Sunday.
Otago's Youth team play's bottom placed Manawatu in the curtain raiser at 10am at the Forsyth Barr Stadium, and while Youth coach Tony Martin would like striker McCormack in his ranks to help add three points to take their tally to nine - he would also like to see McCormack running at the Waitakere defence in the main game.
Other youngsters in the reckoning are utility Andrew Ridden, and injury plagued James Govan. Ant Hancock could also aim at a return as targetman.
Another quicksilver striker is Regan Coldicott, with five goals in his locker this season and looking to increase that number against Waitakere, hoping to end the dismal form that has not seen Otago defeat the champions for 15 matches. Otago last beat Waitakere in season 2005-06, and a win on Sunday would equal the northerners club record of eight wins in a row.
In a flash of inspiration, French midfielder Victor Da Costa scored his first goal for Otago last week, after a mazy run through trailing defenders he curved a superb shot into Hawkes Bays net.
Coach Murray could use the simple advice of 'encore' knowing that the ebullient Parisian is capable of moments of genius that can spark a game into life.
Missing from the Waitakere line-up is injured Roy Krishna with definite non starters David Mulligan, Dan Morgan, and Chad Coombes will also be absent through suspension.
Coach Paul Marshall will call on Matt Cunneen and Sam Mathews to compensate.
The possible return to Dunedin of Waitakere's recently signed Tristan Prattley at left fullback, could produce an interesting duel with former team mate right back Tom Connor who likes to shunt forward in attack.
Taylor McCORMACK is drafted into the squad
Paul MARSHALL calls on Matt CUNNEEN and Sam MATHEWS to bolster his squad.
Aaron BURGESS misses out due to injury.
David MULLIGANís neck injury woes leave him sidelined alongside Dan MORGAN who has an injured knee. Chad COOMBES is suspended and Roy KRISHNA injured
Victor da COSTA scored his first goal for Otago United in nine appearances last week.
KRISHNA must wait at least another week before he can have a go at hitting the 50 goal mark for Waitakere. He currently has 48 strikes to his name for the West Aucklanders in 72 appearances. Tim MYERS is one caution away from suspension.
Otago last defeated Waitakere in 2005/06 season. Since then they have gone 15 games without a win versus the defending champions. They have only scored 11 goals and conceded 54 in all matches with Waitakere United.
Waitakere United last dropped points to Otago six years ago when they were held to a 1-1 draw. A win for Waitakere would equal their record of eight wins in a row.
ASB Premiership - Round 12
Sunday 10 February, 2013
1- Liam LITTLE (GK)
1- Danny ROBINSON (GK)
4- Ben FITZPATRICK
2- Aaron SCOTT
5- Matt JOY
3- Jack BEGUELY
7- Regan COLDICOTT
4- Tim MYERS
8- Seamus RYDER
5- Brian SHELLEY
9- Victor da COSTA
6- Matt CUNNEEN
10- Ant HANCOCK
9- Milos NIKOLIC
11- James GOVAN
10- Allan PEARCE
13- Scott GANNON
11- Luiz del MONTE
14- Sam MEPHAM
16- Tristan PRATTLEY
15- Tom CONNOR
17- Jake BUTLER (c)
16- Aajay CUNNINGHAM
20- Ryan de VRIES
17- Tim HORNER (c)
21- Dylan STANSFIELD
20- Andy RIDDEN
25- Masaki NOMOTO
22- Zayne OFFICER (GK)
28- Alex CARR (GK)
23- Morgan DAY
27- Taylor McCORMACK
28- Craig FERGUSON