Otago United faces its last match of the season against
Waikato at Porrit Stadium, in Hamilton, tomorrow.
Warning signs are up regarding the Otago club's position
among a trio trapped at the bottom of the competition, all on
six points, with Otago leading the group on goal difference.
Otago's goal difference is -24, and both Waikato and Manawatu
are at -32, so it is as tight as a drumskin in that group,
focusing attention on this weekend's games.
Manawatu could go into the record books as the first club to
collect three consecutive ASB Premiership wooden spoons if it
takes a heavy beating from Auckland City in Palmerston North.
A win or draw for Manawatu - and a heavy defeat for Waikato -
would lift Manawatu off the bottom and into its best finish
since the 2009-10 season.
Confidence is building in the Waikato camp after an
impressive 4-1 victory over the Phoenix reserves on
Wednesday. Two goals from Rory Turner and one apiece from
Alexi Caroama Varela and Sam Margetts lifted Waikato to a
On a day when three former members of the Waikato side -
attackers Tyler Boyd and Ryan Thomas and midfielder Jesse
Edge - were named in the New Zealand under-20 squad,
Waikato's current band of players showed that, despite a
tough second half of the season, there's still enough spirit
to suggest a positive end to their campaign.
Clearly, Otago would prefer to leave nothing to chance, and
get a win over Waikato that would hoist coach Richard
Murray's side up to nine competition points, close to the
11-point finish of last year, and similar to the 12 points
gained in 2010-11, when Otago was second bottom.
In the last three seasons, Otago has won just eight matches,
and it has starved local support this season by not winning
any home matches.
Otago's record against Waikato is worrying. In December,
Waikato inflicted the heaviest defeat of the season, beating
Otago 6-1 in Dunedin. But Waikato last week was given a 7-1
caning by Auckland City, so current form is hard to assess.
Otago could again be stymied by its usual queue of injured
players - Aaron Burgess (broken tibia, out for season), Tim
Horner (knee), Regan Coldicott (calf), Tom Connor (groin) and
Craig Ferguson (groin). Striker James Govan has a university
Goalkeeper Liam Little will make his 50th career appearance,
if selected. Little has accumulated his half century after
spells with Auckland City, Waitakere United and Otago United.
Essentially, the injured players are the experienced core of
Murray's squad, and youth team players Cam Attwood, Geordie
Mansford and Joel Stevens are likely to be called up.
Stevens is still celebrating his inclusion in the Junior All
Whites, who play matches in Fiji next month.
Much depends on how well his shoulder injury has healed, and
whether he will risk playing for United this weekend. But he
could be an attacking option for Otago, especially if
Coldicott does not play.
Tony Martin's youth side is well placed to win a place in the
finals of the national youth competition. After six rounds,
Canterbury leads the Southern group with 13 points, and Otago
is one point behind on 12.
Otago has a bye this week, plays the Nelson Falcons at Tahuna
Park on March 3, then has a classic derby finish against
Canterbury in Christchurch on March 9.
The youth side is probably the best Otago has had for some
time, but most are still a few seasons away from full senior
standard, and the real pressure on United is to immediately
initiate a plan to recruit at least a couple of experienced
players for next season.
The return of Old Boys to Footballsouth's winter Premier
League shows that it can be done, since the Invercargill side
expects to field four new experienced imports, two from
Otago v Waikato
Hamilton, tomorrow, 1pm
Otago United: Liam Little, Jude Fitzpatrick, Matt Joy,
Seamus Ryder, Victor Da Costa, Ant Hancock, Cam Attwood,
Scott Gannon, Sam Mepham, Geordie Mansford, Aajay Cunningham,
Joel Stevens, Andy Ridden, Zayne Officer, Morgan Day, Taylor
Waikato: Jason Mann, Jordan Shaw, Adam Luque, Eder
Franchini, Gurjeep Singh, Rory Turner, Mark Jones, Jack
Hobson-McVeigh, Sam Margetts, Byron Paulus, Wade Molony,
Alexi Caroama Varela, Dave Parkinson, Hone Fowler, Neil