You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Otago United is in danger of being cast adrift at the bottom of the ASB Premiership unless something can be be gained from tomorrow's game against Wellington, at Westpac Stadium.
Until last week, Waikato held the basement slot, but under new coach Mark Cossey, the team beat Manawatu 3-2 and earned a welcome cushion of three competition points.
Now, it is bottom-placed Otago that has neck-ache, looking up at the rest of the teams, with no wins or points after five games played. This takes United to a run of 14 matches without victory.
Otago's last league win was a 1-0 result over Canterbury in the sixth round last year.
''We need some luck,'' coach Richard Murray said, regarding his side's recent results. ''We haven't played particularly badly. We've actually played pretty well and pushed teams.
''It's just we've lost out on a bit on luck and it hasn't fallen our way.''
This weekend's game in Wellington will have the rare honour of being broadcast on Sky, and Murray hopes that can be used as a motivating factor for his side.
Perhaps the problem is as much mental as physical, since Otago can generate plenty of physical energy for most of its matches.
However, lapses in concentration have crippled many fine team efforts, and a pattern is emerging in which goals are leaked in bunches of twos and threes.
Against Auckland this year, three goals were conceded in seven minutes: the 85th, 89th and 92nd.
Against Canterbury, it was two goals in two minutes, and two goals were presented to Waitakere in the 86th and 88th minutes.
The pattern actually stretches back to last season, when rapid bursts of scoring sank the Otago side.
Big scores by the likes of Auckland (6-0 and 3-1) contained clumps of scoring, but matches deemed ''winnable'' also had goals pour through black holes in defence.
Waikato scored two goals in three minutes for a 2-0 win over Otago, and in the other game against Waikato, two goals in two minutes led to a 3-3 draw.
Hawkes Bay scored goals in the 63rd and 64th minutes, then earned a 4-2 win with two between the 75th and 79th minutes.
Some of those goals came from a ''gung ho'' finish in a frantic attempt to rescue a result, the rationale being losing 2-1 is much the same as losing 4-1.
But there is also an argument for keeping a sound defensive team shape as late pressure is applied.
Chasing its first win, Otago United will be back to full strength with the returned Tim Horner having had a full match to get up to speed. Frenchman Victor Da Costa is similar and seems to have overcome his knee problem.
Wellington had last week's match against Auckland City postponed due to the latter's involvement with the Club World Cup in Japan.
Wellington coach Matt Calcott has lost Danish striker Karsten Viborg, but has attacking threats in Solomon Islands striker Henry Fa'arodo and Cory Chettleburgh, and has also recalled Wiremu Patrick to boost his midfield.
Calcott's team sits fifth in the league with two wins from four matches. Wellington has lost just once to Otago in 11 matches.
Otago v Wellington, Westpac Stadium, tomorrow, 1.45pm
Otago United: Liam Little, Tristan Prattley (captain), Jude Fitzpatrick, Matt Joy, Seamus Ryder, Victor Da Costa, Ant Hancock, Aaron Burgess, Sam Mepham, Tom Connor, Tim Horner, Andy Ridden, Joel Stevens, Regan Coldicott, Craig Ferguson, Morgan Day.
Wellington: Scott Basalaj, Tim Schaeffers, Andreas Damgaard, Wiremu Patrick, Adam McGeorge, Cory Chettleburgh, Henry Fa'arodo, Karl Whalen, Dominic Rowe, Tom Doyle, Tobias Bertsch, Luke Rowe, Hamish Watson, Tom Biss, Will Jones.
Live on Sky Sport 1.