Premiership derby heads to the deep south
The message is simple for Southland football fans leading into Sunday's national premiership game in Invercargill - support it or lose it.
Southern United and Canterbury United will square off in a South Island derby at Rugby Park in Invercargill as the Dunedin-based Southern United team looks to spread its games around the regions.
Southland Football development officer Ken Cresswell said it was a great opportunity for Southland football fans to watch action from New Zealand's top-level domestic competition.
Invercargill will also host another game in February between Southern United and the Wanderers FC team, which is made up mainly of New Zealand under-20 prospects.
Cresswell said it was important if Southland were to get more of these games in the future that they are well supported by the public.
"To be honest, if we don't get along and support it, we're not going to get too many more opportunities in the future. We're in a similar boat with the Highlanders in rugby; we get opportunities to host these matches at this level and if we don't get along and show some support for the fixture, but also our team, Southern United, we probably don't deserve to have the games down here."
There is a Southland connection with the Southern United team, with Andrew Ridden on the bench.
Ridden is now based in Dunedin, where he studies, but learned his footballing craft in Southland. He has played a limited role for Southern United to date this season.
The South Island derby takes on added significance as Canterbury United and Southern United seek their first wins of the season in Invercargill on Sunday.
Canterbury may not have beaten Auckland City last week but the 0-0 draw perhaps gives the Dragons a psychological edge in this clash.
Southern United have taken the lead in two of their three games this season but have so far been unable to close the deal, and they sit bottom of the table. A derby match gives Southern United the ideal opportunity to forget their woes and play without pressure.
Sunday's game will kick off at 2pm.
The vital statistics: The form book goes out the window in a derby match, and that's what coach Luiz Uehara will be hoping for after losing his first three games as Southern United coach. Defeat in this match will leave Southern United with a record 10 consecutive ASB Premiership losses. The competition record for consecutive losses is held by Canterbury United, who lost 11 straight games in 2007-08.
The players: Aaron Clapham is in line for his 50th ASB Premiership career appearance. Clapham has scored 30 goals for Canterbury United and is joint all-time top scorer with Russell Kamo, who made his 50th ASB Premiership career appearance in last week's 0-0 draw with Auckland City.
The vital statistics: Canterbury United have been too strong for their neighbours in recent clashes, having won three straight derby matches, scoring nine goals and conceding just two. They've also won four straight away derbies with Southern United and start Sunday's match as warm favourites to keep that winning sequence going.
The Southland Times