United on the front foot

SMART PLAY: Brian Shelley of Waitakere looks at his options.
SMART PLAY: Brian Shelley of Waitakere looks at his options.

Losing is not a term easily found in Waitakere United's vocabulary.

The red and whites wrapped up the minor premiership with two games to spare knowing the importance of keeping momentum heading into the semifinals on March 3.

Waitakere face Hawke's Bay on Sunday in Napier with Bay striker Sean Lovemore unlikely to play after picking up an ankle injury in the 35th minute of their 1-1 draw with Canterbury.

Waitakere manager David Johnson says the road trip to Napier is always tough.

"Hawke's Bay will miss Sean and it will make a big difference.

"But they're a good side and we need to keep the roll on," Johnson says.

The Bay have dropped to third spot and the race is on as they jostle for the top four positions with Auckland City, Canterbury and possibly Wellington.

Waitakere's goal-scoring machine Roy Krishna was missing with a hamstring injury on Sunday but that didn't stop the team recording their 11th win in 12 games.

The first half belonged to Waitakere midfielder Ryan De Vries when United took on Otago at Forsyth Barr Stadium as he notched up two of his three goals inside the first 37 minutes.

Dylan Stansfield was able to put De Vries in the clear in the 31st then Allan Pearce again six minutes later to set him up for goal No 2.

Otago hit back in the second half with a goal to Regan Coldicott and the team kept applying the pressure.

But Waitakere pulled away with goals to Milos Nikolic and De Vries in the dying minutes.

Waitakere captain Jake Butler says it's nice to have the luxury of depth in key positions.

"If a player's not on their game, someone else on the paddock will be to pick up the slack.

"Winning is a good habit to have. Our goal at the start of the season was to win all our games," Butler says.

Waitakere may need to shuffle their lineup with Krishna still not 100 per cent, Tim Meyers out and Chad Coombes coming back from suspension.

Western Leader