Football: Familiar faces await Otago

Harley Rodeka
Harley Rodeka
Otago United travels north to play Hawkes Bay tomorrow, and will run into some familiar faces.

It will be hard to miss the ever-smiling Harley Rodeka, who played with distinction for Otago last season but has moved on to try his luck with the Bay, and so far it has been a good move.

The industrious midfielder has fitted in well as coach Chris Greatholder's side has moved up to the rarified atmosphere of the ASB Premiership's top three.

However, Rodeka will only be able to wave to his Otago mates from the grandstand, since he was red-carded in the 1-1 draw with Auckland and has been suspended for a week.

Tristan Prattley will meet up again with Bay striker Sean Lovemore.

They played together in the Olympic qualifying series in which New Zealand scratched out a 1-0 win over Papua New Guinea.

The win earned the team a place in the London Olympics, but Prattley had to watch from a distance as Otago's classy left back missed the final cut.

A New Zealand under-20 and under-23 representative, Lovemore formerly played for the Wellington Phoenix and Waitakere, but this season transferred to the Bay despite living in Auckland.

Lovemore will need some close patrolling by Otago since he has scored steadily for his new club, and leads the golden boot race with five goals in four games.

With former All Whites Jarrod Smith and Cole Peverley on board, and midfielder Stephen Hindmarch and skipper Bill Robertson teaming up alongside Danny Wilson and Aaron Jones, Hawkes Bay looks an experienced unit.

"We believe Lovemore has a bit of pace, and knows where the goals are, but our defence should be able to take care of him," Otago coach Richard Murray said.

However, Murray makes no secret of his team's injury and sickness problems.

It is bad enough that mechanical problems have affected midfielder Victor da Costa's knee, Joel Steven's dodgy ankle, Regan Coldicott's shins and keeper Liam Little's back.

Defender Thomas Connor has not got over the bout of sickness that affected his game last week, and now midfielder Morgan Day appears to be suffering from the same ailment.

Late fitness checks will clarify United's travelling squad, which heads for Napier at 9am today and has a long wait until kick-off tomorrow afternoon.

Hawkes Bay claims it will adopt a more expansive approach against Otago, and in reply coach Murray is looking for Otago to deny space, earn a fair share of ball possession and use it carefully.

Another goal by striker Aaron Burgess will help, and the return of Coldicott and his penetrating wide pace should open up space in the Bay penalty area.

"We are still very much work in progress," Murray said.

"But the lads trained well in midweek and are capable of earning a result."

Otago United v Hawkes Bay
Napier, tomorrow, 2pm

Otago United: Liam Little, Thomas Connor, Tristan Prattley, Tim Horner, Benjudah Fitzpatrick, Scott Gannon, Matt Joy, Andrew Ridden, Seamus Ryder, Joel Stevens, Ant Hancock, Regan Coldicott, Aaron Burgess, Craig Ferguson, Sam Mepham, Morgan Day.


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