Crunch time for Hawke's Bay United

Last updated 05:00 17/02/2013

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New Zealand's most-improved domestic football team can test their playoff credentials today, and extend an impressive unbeaten home streak.

After sealing a first-ever top-four finish last weekend, Hawke's Bay United host minor premiers Waitakere United in Napier - where they are unbeaten in over a year.

Likewise, the West Aucklanders are on an unbeaten run of their own - yet to drop a league game all season - but will be missing key striker Roy Krishna, who is out with a hamstring injury.

Elsewhere, Auckland City have a relatively straightforward day, hosting struggling Waikato.

Second-placed Auckland have a full squad available for the arrival of the league's weakest side. It's a critical game for Waikato, however.

Stuck in a three-way tie on the bottom of the league with Manawatu and Otago, the visitors would be more than happy to take a draw, and ease their way out of the wooden spoon race.

The highest probability for Waikato's rivals to collect any points will be in Invercargill, when Otago host Wellington.

While there is only one place in the table between the two - that translates to a points gap of nine - and a goal difference of 24.

Possibly in Otago's favour though is that Wellington's hopes for playoff football are dead, meaning only pride is at stake.

Finally, Manawatu travel to Christchurch in what should be a one-sided game.

Pitting the team with the worst goal difference in the competition (-29) against a side already guaranteed playoff football, Canterbury should be able to use the match as a tune-up for the more important fixtures around the corner.

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- Sunday Star Times

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