Invercargill hosts its first ASB Premiership match when
Otago United and Wellington meet at Rugby Park tomorrow.
Enterprising administrators have pulled out all the stops to
make the match an occasion that will attract football fans
who have been starved of top quality games in recent years.
Added southern interest is the probable re-entry of
Southland's Old Boys club into the Footballsouth Premier
League, which starts in April and already has clubs training
Spectators will find tomorrow's match to be no limp
encounter, as both sides aim to finish the Premiership in
style by taking the three points required to stay clear of
At the moment there is a trio tied in bottom place. Otago
United, Waikato and Manawatu all have six points and are
separated only by goal difference.
Key figures could be the men in gloves, Otago keeper Liam
Little and Wellington custodian Scott Basalaj, who are both
in dynamic form at the moment.
Last week, Little defied the might of Waitakere, and superbly
saved a penalty in his team's eventual 4-1 loss.
Wellington's Basalaj has also been earning plaudits for his
dynamism and three clean sheets this season.
Those clean sheetssparked Wellington's best burst of form,
when coach Matt Calcott's team racked up wins over Canterbury
(2-0), Waikato (1-0) and Manawatu (6-0).
Otago has only registered two wins so far. It beat Manawatu
4-1 away, and its most important result was in Wellington,
when Joel Stevens sliced through to score the only goal of
Unfortunately, young frontrunner Stevens has been out of
action due to injury in recent matches, but he still hopes to
gain New Zealand under-20 honours, based on his earlier form.
Otago coach Richard Murray has targeted six points from the
last two games, starting with Wellington tomorrow, then the
season-ending road trip to Waikato, which could boost Otago's
The spirited Otago finish last week against top team
Waitakere belied Murray's team selection dilemmas, and showed
that his team is capable of long spells of effective play.
Stand-outs have been keeper Little, the lofty defensive duo
Matt Joy and Jude Fitzpatrick, and the deceptive running and
finishing of striker Regan Coldicott, now looking to add to
his six-goal tally.
''Since we lost striker Aaron Burgess with a leg fracture,
and earlier Tristan Prattley and Harley Rodeka in northern
transfers, our squad has been paper-thin, with many of the
team playing on despite niggling injuries,'' Murray said.
''It's as much mental as physical, though. We need to
concentrate for the whole game to minimise silly errors that
cost goals. The chances we will inevitably create have got to
end up in Wellington's net.''
Wellington also seems to be on a wave at the moment. It was
desperately unlucky last week, holding Auckland to 2-2
despite having just 10 men from the 34th minute when Adam
McGeorge was red-carded.
It took a late inspirational score from Ivan Vicelich to rob
Calcott's team of at least a share of the points.
Invercargill, tomorrow, 2pm
Otago United: Liam Little, Jude Fitzpatrick, Matt Joy,
Regan Coldicott, Seamus Ryder, Victor Da Costa, Ant Hancock,
James Govan, Scott Gannon, Sam Mepham, Tom Connor, Aajay
Cunningham, Tim Horner (captain), Andy Ridden, Zayne Officer,
Morgan Day, Taylor Mccormack, Craig Ferguson.
Wellington: Scott Basalaj, Tim Schaeffers, Darren
Cheriton, Wiremu Patrick, Cory Chettleburgh, Henry Fa'arodo,
Adam Thomas, Karl Whalen, Dominic Rowe Luis Corrales, Luke
Rowe, Justin Gulley, Hamish Watson, Tom Biss, Alec Solomons,