Canterbury United coach tips rosy future for teenager Sebastian Schacht
Schoolboy Sebastian Schacht only discovered he was starting his first match for Canterbury United two hours before kickoff.
The 17-year-old St Andrew's College student was a late addition to the playing 11, replacing an ill Andreas Wilson at left back in Sunday's 2-1 home win over Hawke's Bay United.
Schacht had been used four times off the bench this season, but admitted to plenty of nerves before his first run-on appearance, Canterbury coach Willy Gerdsen said.
He was filling an unfamiliar role, naturally playing as a holding midfielder and being stronger off his right foot.
Gerdsen was full of praise for Schacht, who played 84 minutes before being given a breather. He tipped a bright future for Schacht, who is of German origin.
"He was a little bit nervous, but he did very well. I'm very proud of the young guy," Gerdsen said
At one stage in the second half, Canterbury had two 17-year-olds operating down the left flank with Jack Anderson, a former Auckland City youth player, also on the pitch.
Schacht will play his club football for Ferrymead Bays this winter in the Mainland Premier League after switching from FC Twenty11.
Wilson, who has been a regular at left back during Gerdsen's tenure, is likely to return to the starting line-up for Sunday's pivotal clash against Waitakere United at English Park.
Fifth placed Canterbury have just three round matches remaining and must keep accumulating victories if they are to qualify for the finals for the second straight season.
The race for finals berths is intense with the Dragons three points off first place and one outside the top four.
Canterbury have a challenging run home with playoff rivals Eastern Suburbs [away next Sunday] and defending champions Team Wellington [March 19 at English Park] left to play.
Slipping up to Waitakere wouldn't eliminate Canterbury from finals contention, but it would significantly hurt their chances.
Gerdsen said Canterbury had "everything to play for" and stressed it was vital to control their own destiny and pick up a victory.
Waitakere have come unstuck over the past fortnight, drawing 2-2 at home to Tasman United and being thumped 7-2 by Team Wellington in their last start, having led 2-0 after 20 minutes.
Canterbury can ill afford to take them lightly having been beaten 1-0 by the West Auckland side in December.
Gerdsen knows Waitakere coach Chris Milicich from his time living in Auckland and involvement with New Zealand age-group sides.
He said Milicich-coached teams were well organised and warned they would be playing as if their season was on the line.
Gerdsen was satisfied with the Hawke's Bay win, but acknowledged they needed to be more clinical in the attacking third.
They created an abundance of chances, but were let down by their own poor finishing and outstanding opposition goalkeeper Josh Hill.
AT A GLANCE:
Canterbury United v Waitakere United
English Park; Sunday 2pm.
Points (games played): Auckland City 27 (14), Team Wellington 27 (15), Eastern Suburbs 27 (15), Waitakere 25 (15), Canterbury 24 (15), Hawke's Bay 23 (15), Phoenix reserves 19 (15), Hamilton Wanderers 13 (15), Tasman 11 (15), Southern 10 (14).