Football: Murray backed as Otago faces daunting away game

John Mathias
John Mathias
Otago United faces top side Waitakere tomorrow in a fifth round that has seen other struggling franchises already wield the axe on coaching staff.

Waikato sacked coach Declan Edge this week and replaced him with youth team coach Mark Cossey after only four games played this season.

The flamboyant Edge was in his second season, preaching long-term targets to young players and concentrating on good technique and ball possession, instead of a "route one" long ball strategy.

But Waikato has lost all four matches in the ASB Premiership this season, after winning just two of its 14 league matches under Edge the previous summer.

Waikato has not won a home match for almost two years.

Otago coach Richard Murray will be looking over his shoulder since the United franchise has a similar record, and will need to find improved form to gain points from unbeaten Waitakere in tomorrow's away game.

However, Otago United board member John Mathias confirmed the franchise had every confidence Murray could lift United out of its lowly position.

"Richard has the team playing well and but for some debatable refereeing decisions, we could have had several points on the board," Mathias said.

There a few silver linings in the cloud that hovers over Otago at the moment.

Centreback Matt Joy is on a rich vein of good form which earned him a place in the ASB Premiership team of the month.

If the rest of Otago's squad can show the improvement Joy has achieved this season, Murray will be a happy man.

Otago defender Tom Connor has also passed a career milestone in playing his 50th game, and he adds a sharp edge to United's attack with his runs up the flanks.

Keeper Liam Little's return will strengthen the squad and striker Ant Hancock, back from injury, will add thrust to United's attack. But French midfielder Victor da Costa is still sidelined by a knee problem.

Murray is well aware of what awaits his team at Fred Taylor Park.

"We conceded 11 goals in two games against them last year," he said ruefully. "We've got to get in their faces and deny them space. If we don't, they have the speed to punish us."

Results have been disappointing but Murray believes his team is better than the Premiership table would indicate.

Only a late flurry of goals and a controversial red card allowed Auckland City to fly out of Dunedin with three points, and last weekend in Napier, Otago was well in the hunt until halftime.

"We've missed out on a bit of luck," Murray said.

"We played really well up to halftime against Hawkes Bay but then lost our concentration after the break. We had the beating of Auckland all game but lost out to a decision by the man in the middle."

Otago will need all its courage and spirit to reverse some intimidating statistics. It has travelled to west Auckland 10 times and lost 10 times. A 16-match winless streak against Waitakere includes two draws and 14 losses stretching back to 2005.

Footballsouth coach Nick Rzepecky hopes his side can finish the season with a flourish and grab a rare away win against Capital tomorrow.

The women's team has improved this season and would love to be rewarded with a result in Wellington.

"There is still lots of work to do but we are getting closer. Once we get that first win under our belt, there will be no stopping Footballsouth," Rzepecky said.

"We are off to Capital with nothing to lose. We will throw everything at Capital to ensure we can claim that win and spoil the party for somebody."

Otago United v Waitakere
Auckland, tomorrow, 2pm

Otago: Liam Little, Tristan Prattley (captain), Ben Fitzpatrick, Matt Joy, Seamus Ryder, Ant Hancock, Aaron Burgess, Sam Mepham, Tom Connor, Tim Horner, Scott Gannon, Andy Ridden, Joel Stevens, Regan Coldicott, Craig Ferguson, Morgan Day.

Waitakere: Danny Robinson, Aaron Scott, Jack Beguely, Tim Myers, Brian Shelley, Matt Cunneen, David Mulligan, Chad Coombes, George Slefendorfas, Allan Pearce, Roy Krishna, Maksim Manko, Jake Butler, Ryan de Vries, Dylan Stansfield, Louie Caunter.

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