Otago United is in danger of being cast adrift at the bottom
of the ASB Premiership unless something can be be gained from
tomorrow's game against Wellington, at Westpac Stadium.
Until last week, Waikato held the basement slot, but under
new coach Mark Cossey, the team beat Manawatu 3-2 and earned
a welcome cushion of three competition points.
Now, it is bottom-placed Otago that has neck-ache, looking up
at the rest of the teams, with no wins or points after five
games played. This takes United to a run of 14 matches
Otago's last league win was a 1-0 result over Canterbury in
the sixth round last year.
''We need some luck,'' coach Richard Murray said, regarding
his side's recent results. ''We haven't played particularly
badly. We've actually played pretty well and pushed teams.
''It's just we've lost out on a bit on luck and it hasn't
fallen our way.''
This weekend's game in Wellington will have the rare honour
of being broadcast on Sky, and Murray hopes that can be used
as a motivating factor for his side.
Perhaps the problem is as much mental as physical, since
Otago can generate plenty of physical energy for most of its
However, lapses in concentration have crippled many fine team
efforts, and a pattern is emerging in which goals are leaked
in bunches of twos and threes.
Against Auckland this year, three goals were conceded in
seven minutes: the 85th, 89th and 92nd.
Against Canterbury, it was two goals in two minutes, and two
goals were presented to Waitakere in the 86th and 88th
The pattern actually stretches back to last season, when
rapid bursts of scoring sank the Otago side.
Big scores by the likes of Auckland (6-0 and 3-1) contained
clumps of scoring, but matches deemed ''winnable'' also had
goals pour through black holes in defence.
Waikato scored two goals in three minutes for a 2-0 win over
Otago, and in the other game against Waikato, two goals in
two minutes led to a 3-3 draw.
Hawkes Bay scored goals in the 63rd and 64th minutes, then
earned a 4-2 win with two between the 75th and 79th minutes.
Some of those goals came from a ''gung ho'' finish in a
frantic attempt to rescue a result, the rationale being
losing 2-1 is much the same as losing 4-1.
But there is also an argument for keeping a sound defensive
team shape as late pressure is applied.
Chasing its first win, Otago United will be back to full
strength with the returned Tim Horner having had a full match
to get up to speed. Frenchman Victor Da Costa is similar and
seems to have overcome his knee problem.
Wellington had last week's match against Auckland City
postponed due to the latter's involvement with the Club World
Cup in Japan.
Wellington coach Matt Calcott has lost Danish striker Karsten
Viborg, but has attacking threats in Solomon Islands striker
Henry Fa'arodo and Cory Chettleburgh, and has also recalled
Wiremu Patrick to boost his midfield.
Calcott's team sits fifth in the league with two wins from
four matches. Wellington has lost just once to Otago in 11
Otago v Wellington, Westpac Stadium, tomorrow,
Otago United: Liam Little, Tristan Prattley (captain), Jude
Fitzpatrick, Matt Joy, Seamus Ryder, Victor Da Costa, Ant
Hancock, Aaron Burgess, Sam Mepham, Tom Connor, Tim Horner,
Andy Ridden, Joel Stevens, Regan Coldicott, Craig Ferguson,
Wellington: Scott Basalaj, Tim Schaeffers, Andreas Damgaard,
Wiremu Patrick, Adam McGeorge, Cory Chettleburgh, Henry
Fa'arodo, Karl Whalen, Dominic Rowe, Tom Doyle, Tobias
Bertsch, Luke Rowe, Hamish Watson, Tom Biss, Will Jones.
Live on Sky Sport 1.