Tough challenge awaits Canterbury Utd
There's a lot on the line for both Canterbury United and Waitakere United in Auckland tomorrow.
A win to Waitakere or a draw would allow the west Aucklanders to become only the second club after Auckland City to complete an ASB premiership regular season without losing a match. A victory would give coach Paul Marshall's team a record 40 points.
Canterbury United are already guaranteed a playoff place. Keith Braithwaite's squad are in third place, one point ahead of Hawke's Bay United.
The Canterbury Dragons must beat Waitakere to hold their place rather than rely on Team Wellington upsetting Hawke's Bay in Wellington today.
If Hawke's Bay win and Canterbury lose, the Dragons would face Waitakere in the semifinals. Canterbury have been outclassed by both Waitakere and Auckland this season after closing the gap in recent years.
Their chances of beating Marshall's men over two legs would be rather remote. But they have conquered second-placed Auckland at the semifinal stage before.
Canterbury will miss suspended centre back Tom Schwarz. Braithwaite has called up youth team members Tristan Nicol and Cory Mitchell but captain Dan Terris should start in Schwarz's spot after getting his first taste of play in the second round as a late substitute against Youngheart Manawatu last weekend.
The Dragons' defence will have to be on its toes against the Waitakere attack. Fijian international Roy Krishna is still missing but Ryan de Vries has netted four times in the last two games. He and ex-All White Allan Pearce both have six goals.
Aaron Clapham scored a hat-trick against Manawatu to reach 10 for the season and become Canterbury's all-time highest goalscorer with 29 goals in 59 matches, one more than striker Russell Kamo, who played 60 games.
Darren White returns from a one-game ban to bolster Canterbury's attack.