Football: Otago United signs midfielder

Otago United has added more depth to its squad by signing Stuart Kelly, whose last club in the New Zealand Football Championship was Canterbury United.

Kelly (27) was a youth professional with Glasgow Rangers and East Stirling before moving to New Zealand several years ago.

A creative midfield player who scored his share of goals for Canterbury, Kelly could be an important factor in Otago's ambitions this season.

Coach Terry Phelan was delighted with the signing.

"He will not play this weekend against Waikato, but I believe he is fit and has been training, so with his experience he will add real depth to our present squad."

Phelan's job this week has been to keep morale high for tomorrow's away match to Waikato which parallels Otago's record of having won one match and has lost two.

"We showed glimpses last week against Manawatu of what Otago is capable of producing - some very good attacking play that should have earned at least two goals in the first half," he said.

"Our inconsistency and lack of concentration cost us in the second half, especially after battling back to 2-2 with minutes to go.

"We have had a good talk about the game, watched the video, and hopefully learned where we went wrong.

"But the clock is ticking. There are only 12 games left now that the NZFC has been reduced to two rounds, and we have got to get points on the board," Phelan said.

With the three coaches, Phelan, Malcolm Fleming and Johan Koutstaal taking separate groups and merging towards the end, training at Sunnyvale has gone well.

"I could not ask for more at training," Phelan said.

"They are working hard, and having a laugh or two, just the attitude I want. It's a good squad.

"We just have to reproduce that form in weekend games, where possibly our senior players need to take a more dominant role, reading the flow of the game and encouraging our younger lads."

Consistent form by defender Colin Falvey and midfielder Barry Gardiner has again been rewarded by them being named in the NZFC Team of the Week.

Waikato will have a few familiar faces tomorrow, since players such as Shaun Van Rooyen, Joe Simpkins, Nathan Strom and Paul Stewart have also worn Otago colours.

"After our pre-season games against Hawkes Bay and Auckland City our season finally got under way with a well-deserved win against Canterbury," Waikato coach Dave Edmondson said.

The win came at a cost, however, and the suspension to Craig Wylie is frustrating as he was starting to get match fit and have an effect on games.

The return of Michael Mayne from his ankle injury will hopefully compensate for the loss of Craig.

"I fully expect Otago to be a tough challenge, but one that we need to meet head on if we are to be serious top-four contenders. Having played well and created a number of goalscoring opportunities over the first three games, this Sunday would be a good time to start converting more of those chances.

"With a little more composure and confidence in front of goal, we can start to feel a little more comfortable in games and to capitalise on the periods of dominance that we have had in all of our games so far this season."

The match should be an even contest between two aspiring sides.

 

Otago United v Waikato
Ngaruawahia, tomorrow, 2pm

Otago United: Liam Little, Rhys Henderson, Tristan Prattley, Barry Gardiner, Colin Falvey (captain), Michael Smith, Robbie Deeley, Tom Jackson, David Dugdale, Andy Coburn, Aaron Burgess, Callum Flaws, Sean Brand, Tim Horner, Tom Connor.

Waikato: Jason Mann, Joel Mathews, Ben Hunt, Graham Pearce, Joe Simpkins, Paul Stewart, Marco Rojas, Stu Hogg, Steven Holloway, Shaun Van Rooyen, Rhys Ruka, Sam Margetts, Nick Robson, Jon Stables, Michael Mayne, Nathan Strom.