Southern in best possible place to reach its goals, coach says

Paul O'Reilly
Paul O'Reilly
The friendly matches are over.

Pre-season is almost done.

Excitement is high and confidence is brewing in the Southern United camp.

The side begins its national football premiership season in 10 days, hosting Tasman United at Logan Park on November 2 before travelling to Christchurch to play Canterbury United a week later.

In slightly awkward fashion, both have faced Southern in the past two weeks in pre-season matches. Southern managed a 1-1 draw with Tasman but lost 2-1 to Canterbury.

There was still plenty to work on, but coach Paul O'Reilly said the side was heading in the right direction.

Around that, it had been working hard, doing four or five sessions a week plus weekends. It was a big commitment for amateur and semi-professional players but one that O'Reilly felt left the side in the best place possible to succeed.

Much like last season, he did not expect any easy games, but was hopeful the side could continue building on its progress.

''I'd put us in that bracket of being top five the last two years; we're certainly hoping for that. Anything other than being in the top five again wouldn't be ideal.

''I've spoken about it before; even though we're a million miles away in terms of budget, I think we've got to be ambitious and say the top four is where we want to be this year.''

The squad was coming together well and while quality had been lost, there had also been some significant signings.

Key among those was Joel Stevens, a Dunedin product returning home after a long time away.

He had been electric in the pre-season and alongside being positive for the team, it would be exciting for the region to see one of its own back wearing its colours.

He could, potentially, form a deadly combination with ace striker Garbhan Coughlan, who has recovered from a foot injury.

An increasing focus on being expansive will help that pair shine.

Southern has been gritty and hard to break down in recent years.

Part of that had been around New Zealand Football telling the club it needed to become competitive or risk losing its licence. Now that had been achieved, it could look to increase its threat on attack.

However, O'Reilly said it was important Southern remained solid at the back while doing so.

Injury-wise, the squad was down two players already.

Caversham striker Connor Neil would miss the first half of the season with an ankle injury and defender Jordan Spain had a hamstring issue, although that should not keep him out too long.

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