By Jonathan Galuszka / nzfc.co.nz
It is a case of ‘may the winner take the spoils’ this Saturday when Auckland City visits YoungHeart Manawatu.
With both teams locked on 21 points and one round remaining after this week, a win for either team will secure the victor a playoff spot.
This will also take either team one step closer to the O-League and – potentially – the lucrative FIFA Club World Cup.
Both sides come into this clash in fine form indeed. YoungHeart played some amazing attacking football in their win over Waikato last week, despite only coming away with a 1-0 win.
Auckland put Port Vila Sharks to the sword winning by an impressive 8-1 scoreline.
YoungHeart coach Bob Sova says his team were disappointing in front of goal and should have done better last time out.
“In last weeks win against Waikato, we had 24 scoring opportunities but could only convert the solitary goal and missed the opportunity to significantly add to our goal difference.”
Goal difference is something that could become crucial at the end of the day.
With YoungHeart’s differential currently +3, the teams below them could beat them into the playoffs due to their superior goal difference if they end up on level points.
Bob Sova is just focusing on the points column.
“We need three points from the last two games to be guaranteed a playoff spot.”
Aiding their cause will be the return of star striker Jason Hayne, back from a trial with a professional club in Brunei. However, they will have to do without Cory Chettleburgh after his fourth yellow of the season against Waikato.
Auckland, on the other hand, is without Matt Friel and Thomas Spragg. But they do welcome back Liam Mulrooney and Adam McGeorge.
For the home side to take their place in the playoffs this weekend, the game plan is very simple.
“A key feature for us is to be able to apply ourselves for 90 minutes, be competitive in all areas of the field and to convert the chances created” Sova said.
YoungHeart Manawatu (LWWLW)
Auckland City (WLLWW)
Liam Mulrooney, Adam McGeorge
Matt Friel, Thomas Spragg
Cory Chettleburgh is suspended for reaching four yellow cards. Jason Hayne returns to the squad from professional trials in Brunei.
Matt Friel misses out with a sprained ankle and Thomas Spragg is also out. Liam Mulrooney and Adam McGeorge come back into this week’s match day squad.
It took YoungHeart seven attempts to beat Auckland in the NZFC and they’ve conceded more than double the amount of goals that they’ve scored against this weekend’s opposition (40 to 17). They’ve also lost the last six consecutive matches between the two sides.
In the only season (06-07) Auckland finished outside the top two, they pipped league runners up YoungHeart Manawatu to New Zealand’s second O-League spot by winning the grand final.
NZFC - Round 6, Memorial Park
Sat 21 February
1-Chris Marsh (GK)
1-Ross Nicholson (GK)
10-Adam Cowan (Captain)
16-Raff de Gregorio
19-Matt Borren (GK)
20- Alick Maemae
29-John Fletcher (GK)