Football: Rejigged defence has a vital role

Luiz Uehara
Luiz Uehara
Could a goalkeeper really be playing centre half when Southern United plays Waitakere tomorrow in an ASB Premiership football match in Auckland?

The answer may be yes, as coach Luiz Uehara tries to patch up a defence that will miss the physical presence of Peter Overmire alongside Matt Joy in the middle, and possible replacement Jefferson Potrich, who usually finds himself between the posts, has experience in that position.

''So Jefferson will travel with us and provide a valid option in central defence,'' Uehara said.

''Peter [Overmire] cut his foot quite badly and cannot play.''

One possible replacement, Sam Mepham, is also not available, and others out of contention are the injured Patrick Ebanda and Geordie Mansford.

Another absentee is Cam Attwood, suspended for a week after two yellow cards awarded in United's 2-1 win over Wanderers.

Other changes include last season's top scorer for United, Regan Coldicott, who has not been selected, while fellow striker Dan Morris and midfielder Aajay Cunningham have been made available to United's youth team, which will play Nelson tomorrow at Tahuna Park at 12.30pm.

After an impressive midweek 1-0 win over a Phoenix XI, top-of-the-premiership Waitakere will be looking to maintain momentum against the Southern side, which trails it by 10 points.

While the keen Southern United youth side fitted in a practice game last weekend against an Invitation XI, the senior side returns fresh from the holiday break and will have to shake off any rustiness to start 2014.

At the sharp end, United needs an industrious game from imported striker Henrique Viana, with support from Peter Rae and the hard-running Taylor McCormack, with midfielder Morgan Day maintaining his good form as linkman.

Logan Wrightwebb and youth player Nikky Meglinski join the senior squad, and much will depend on the likes of goalkeeper Tom Batty, centre back Matt Joy and Jacob Schneider to organise the largely inexperienced Campbell Higgins, Nick Hindson, David Haymen and Henry Flood, and possibly centre back Potrich, against what is a clinically incisive Waitakere side.

At Tahuna Park, there will be a few apprehensive lads in Mike McGarry's national youth side, as most of the squad are young enough to compete again next year at this level, and the Nelson opposition traditionally has depth and talent.

Nelson coach Davor Tavic heads a well-organised national youth side which knows how to score goals.

But Southern United has several aces in its ranks. James McGarry looks set to carry that family name to higher levels as he trains in the Asia Pacific Football Academy, presently based at Lincoln but which is considering a move to Wellington.

The APFA has been a springboard for professional contracts. Former Otago player Cameron Howieson is with English side Burnley; Bill Tuiloma is in top French club Olympique Marseille's youth team; Birhanu Taye, an Ethiopian refugee, is at Portuguese club SC Braga; and New Zealand under-17 World Cup midfielder Alex Rufer is now with the Wellington Phoenix.

Rahan Ali, in United's midfield, has also recently returned from a spell in youth football with the Inverness Caledonian Thistle, a Scottish professional side in the top half of the Scottish Premier League.

A surprised McGarry just found out two over-age players could be included in his squad, so Morris and Cunningham have been added.

However, while available, they may not play, as McGarry favours the consistency of the regular youth players who have been training together for several months.

In an impressive show of enthusiasm, the youth side has been training since October despite some players being based in Invercargill and Central Otago.

''We can't fault their enthusiasm. They have the makings of a really good squad, and after training for so long they are very keen to get into the `real thing' against Nelson on Sunday, and go on to emulate last season's achievement of reaching the national final,'' McGarry said.

Southern United plays Waitakere in Auckland at 1pm, tomorrow.

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