Football: Otago up against in-form Auckland

Otago United has drafted in help from all quarters to prepare for its match against Auckland City at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin tomorrow.

Auckland is at full gallop, oozing confidence and at full strength after notching wins against a Phoenix A team and arch enemy Waitakere in the Charity Cup.

Coach Ramon Tribulietx has to be pleased with Auckland's present form less than a month out from the Fifa Club World Cup playoff in Yokohama on December 6.

There is a giant difference between the clubs, as Otago licks its wounds and examines what went wrong at the stadium in Dunedin last week against Manawatu.

Yet the good aspect of adversity is that Otago's football community pulled together in midweek training, with Neil Mackenzie augmenting the United coaching staff of Richard Murray and Andy Duncan to stiffen the troops for the match tomorrow.

The United Youth team, coached by Tony Martin and James Letts, was also assisted by Dunedin Technical's Mike Fridge as the lads responded to news that their National Youth League fixture list had been increased by two teams and has an earlier start to the Youth season.

This year there has been greater collaboration between United and Footballsouth, whose women's team plays Central at Tahuna Park in another national football competition.

Many punters would have preferred both men's and women's games to be played at the same venue, possibly a double-header at the stadium instead of splitting support with different locations.

And, sadly, both sides at Logan Park suffered from inadequate training facilities. United's regular training pitch had one set of goal posts removed, and the addition of many truckloads of sand could only have pleased Lawrence of Arabia.

However, the footballers managed to run two extensive training sessions.

The Murray-Duncan-Mackenzie triumverate had their Otago squad working desperately hard, despite having completed a demanding plyometric training on Wednesday in Kaikorai Valley College's gymnasium.

The buck stops with senior coach Murray's choice of players to meet Auckland in a match they are not expected to win. But Scots fullback Craig Ferguson could not resist pointing out Celtic's against-the-odds 2-1 win over Barcelona this week.

Otago played excellent football early in the match last week, but when Manawatu scored, it was all downhill for Otago.

"Yet we had spells of good football that showed our squad's potential," Murray said.

"We have to build on that, and must consider freshening the team, possibly with some of the better Youth players we are obliged to have in our squad."

It says a lot for Otago resilience that all the players and coaches welcomed the chance to play against top team Auckland.

"Nobody expects us to do well against a side of that calibre, but I expect the lads to show the Otago footballing public what they are made of," Murray said.

"And we expect the public to turn up and support what is a young, inexperienced Otago side playing a classy Auckland team that could be playing the likes of Barcelona or South American giant Santos next month."


ASB premiership

The squads
Otago United: Liam Little, Sam Mepham, Jake Morrison, Tom Connor, Tristan Prattley (captain), Aajay Cunningham, Benjudah Fitzpatrick, Joel Stevens, Matt Joy, Peter Evans, Seamus Ryder, Regan Coldicott, Victor DaCosta, Andrew Ridden, Ant Hancock, Craig Ferguson, James Govan, Scott Gannon, Aaron Burgess.

Auckland City (from): Jacob Spoonley, Simon Arms, Takuya Iwata, Riki Van Steeden, Angel Berlanga, Jason Hicks, James Pritchett, Chris Bale, Manel Exposito, Luis Corrales, Daniel Koprivcic, Tamati Williams, Alex Feneridis, Adam Dickinson, Ivan Vicelich (captain), Albert Riera, Pedro Garcia, Liam Anderson, Emiliano Tade, David Browne, Andrew Milne.