Canterbury coach promotes Clapham's case

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 30/11/2012
Aaron Clapham
Photosport
CLASS ACT: Aaron Clapham in action for Canterbury United.

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Canterbury United coach Keith Braithwaite hopes the Wellington Phoenix coaching staff tell head coach Ricki Herbert that Aaron Clapham is worthy of an A-League opportunity.

Clapham created and scored Canterbury's first goal in a 3-2 victory over the Wellington Phoenix Reserves on Wednesday night and put on a midfield master-class.

Braithwaite, who withdrew the 25-year-old at halftime to rest his hip flexor injury, said Clapham and Bulgarian forward Dimitar Bayrev had given Canterbury an extra bit of class.

"How can they [the Phoenix] not be looking at that lad [Clapham]?" asked Braithwaite, who hoped Phoenix Reserves coaches Chris Greenacre and Jonathan Gould gave Herbert positive feedback on the Dragons' playmaker.

"He [Herbert] is probably sick of me and you [The Press] raving about Clapham."

Braithwaite felt Bayrev had his best game for Canterbury since arriving from Bulgaria a month ago. "Jonathan Gould said me to early in the first half, ‘your No 10 is quality'."

He felt Canterbury played "with more fluency in our game" after being "a bit stop-start" in their opening three ASB premiership matches.

"It was good to see what we've been working on getting through to all the players."

Braithwaite gave 16 squad members game time and was pleased with the contributions of his fringe players.

Second-half substitute Ken Yamamoto scored two superbly taken goals and Ash Wellbourne played with poise in his first start up front.

"Chris Murphy did very well [in central midfield] and Nick Wortelboer, who's been out of the team, did exceptionally well at left back.

"The young boy [Tristan] Nicol, who we put on to do the holding role in midfield, also performed well.

"It was a worthwhile exercise for us and a good exercise for the Phoenix."

Canterbury - the first national league team to beat the Phoenix Reserves this season - have now won four matches in succession after a 5-2 opening-round loss to Auckland City.

Braithwaite is hoping the Dragons continue the momentum in Sunday's premiership match against high-flying Hawke's Bay United at English Park.

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