Otago United has lost its classiest defender, Tristan
Prattley, to top team Waitakere, and now a severe shoulder
injury has sidelined flying winger Joel Stevens.
It is far from ideal preparation for the resumption of the
ASB Premiership and an away game against Manawatu tomorrow.
Both Prattley, who moved in the transfer window, and Stevens
were good enough to be selected in the league's team of the
month in December.
Prattley went close to making the New Zealand Olympic side,
and it was in national under-20 trials last weekend that
Stevens dislocated his shoulder. In a practice match that was
to be played in three segments, Stevens impressed. But after
his first stint, he was asked to fill in for an injured
player. He eagerly agreed, then fell awkwardly in a tackle
and sustained the injury.
Fresh back from an overseas holiday, Richard Murray was
dismayed at the news. Matters were compounded as Otago's
coach found out more players would be absent.
Winger Regan Coldicott may yet play, but was doubtful in
midweek due to a back injury, suggesting a lopsided team
because Coldicott, Stevens and Prattley all favour playing on
the left side of United's first-choice team.
And Murray's cup really overflowed with news that utility
Andrew Ridden and goalkeeper Peter Evans are not available
Tomorrow's game against Manawatu has been targeted as a
three-pointer, with even more difficult games soon to follow
against Auckland and Canterbury.
In the first match of the season, coach Stu Jacobs' Manawatu
grabbed an impressive 3-0 win in Dunedin and will be keen to
repeat that result at home.
Manawatu's ace goal-scorer, Tom Mosquera, got a hat trick
that day and has carried on to lead the golden boot race with
seven goals. Another player capable of inflicting damage to
Otago is Vanuatu striker Sele Soromon.
''For us, it starts this weekend at home because we haven't
won there for a couple of seasons. It's an important game for
us,'' Jacobs said.
The match will essentially be a basement dogfight, with both
teams at the bottom of the ASB Premiership on three points.
Manawatu's goal difference is better by only one.
One imagines that the term ''dig deep'' will feature in
Otago's pre-match team talk. New captain Tim Horner and
Otago's diminishing experienced core will have to generate an
outstanding effort to bring back some reward.
''We have to get our heads in the right place, and reset our
targets,'' Murray said.
''We are still capable of gaining a win.''
Footballsouth youth coach Tony Martin also would like a
flying start in his team's first match of the season, also in
''We have a talented squad that has been training very hard
and is capable of bringing back points,'' he said.
Otago v Manawatu
Palmerston North, tomorrow, 2pm
Otago United: Liam Little, Craig Ferguson, Benjudah
Fitzpatrick, Matt Joy, Morgan Day, Seamus Ryder, Victor Da
Costa, Ant Hancock, James Govan, Jackson Mitchell, Scott
Gannon, Sam Mepham, Thomas Connor, Tim Horner (captain),
Geordie Mansford, Aaron Burgess, Morgan Day.
Manawatu: Matt Borren, Liam Higgins, Wade Randle, Kade
Schrijvers, Josh Chettleburgh, Nathan Cooksley, Seule
Soromon, Adam Cowan (captain), Tom Mosquera, Tyson Brandt,
Billy Scott, Jordan Martens, Dale Higham, Ben Wilkes, Grant
Robson, Lewis Cumber.
Footballsouth Youth: Zayn Officer, Matt Mitchell,
Geordie Mansford (captain), Will McIntyre, Cam Attwood, Tom
Houghton, Jackson Mitchell, Finn Moore, Jack Kirkwood, Matt
Webb, Ross Howard, Tom Merrilees, Matt Kelly, Nikki
Meglinski, Anthony Mellon, Tyrell Barringer-Tairi.