Canterbury United's Bacon in for injured Kamo
English import Chris Bacon will make his first national league start for Canterbury United today with top striker Russell Kamo out injured.
Bacon, a proven goalscorer at non-league level in England, made his premiership debut off the substitutes bench as Canterbury completed a 2-0 win over Team Wellington to rise to third place on the points table.
But Canterbury coach Keith Braithwaite confirmed he will start today against fourth-placed Hawke's Bay United in Napier.
"Russell has got a tight hamstring and it doesn't look good. We don't want to risk him," Braithwaite said.
"Chris came on last week and did well. He could have scored, he had a good opportunity, but at least he was in the right place at the right time."
Bacon, a traditional English-style targetman, should have a battle royal with Hawke's Bay skipper and former Canterbury United man Bill Robertson at Park Island.
Braithwaite also has a readymade replacement for centreback Tom Schwarz, who got married yesterday and will miss the match while honeymooning. Julyan Collett returns from a one-match suspension and is likely to start alongside captain Dan Terris in the centre of the Canterbury Dragons' defence.
Terris, who doubles as Canterbury's assistant-coach, had a strong game last weekend on his return from an overseas holiday and he hailed his fellow defenders' efforts in keeping three consecutive clean sheets against Auckland City, Southern United and Wellington.
"We've got a number of new players and it takes a little bit of time to learn how to play together, but it's coming right and hopefully we can continue to do that."
Terris said it was vital to beat Hawke's Bay, who also have playoff aspirations and have only lost twice in their last 12 home games. The Canterbury defence would have to be wary of Hawke's Bay's quicksilver striker Sean Lovemore.
The defensive solidity was not solely due to the back four and the goalkeeper. Terris hailed the midfield quartet of Stu Kelly, Aaron Clapham, Steve Morrison and Cory Mitchell for their workrate and fitness and said they had provided an effective screen.
Clapham scored twice against Wellington, including a superb solo goal and Terris said Hawke's Bay would be mindful of the All White's threat. "But they won't know some of our other players, the likes of Federico and Chris Bacon and what they can do."
Braithwaite said Hawke's Bay had two good strikers in Lovemore and Tomas Mosquera, their off-season signing from Manawatu, "some quality in midfield" in ex-All White David Mulligan.
AT A GLANCE
Canterbury United: Adam Highfield, Pieter Bierma, Pablo Moya, Dan Terris (c), Julyan Collett, Danny Boys, Kris O'Neill, Stu Kelly, Steve Morrison, Aaron Clapham, Cory Mitchell, Chris Murphy, Chris Bacon, Federico Marquez, Ken Yamamoto, Shawn O'Brien.
Hawke's Bay United: Richard Gillespie, Matt Gould, Aaron Jones, Ross Haviland, Bill Robertson (c), Tom Biss, David Mulligan, Matt Hastings, Sean Lovemore, Tomas Mosquera, Jamie Mason, Danny Wilson, Harley Rodeka, Sean Morris, Grant Robson, Nathaniel Hailemariam.
Kickoff: 5pm today at Park Island, Napier.
Other round six matches today (home teams first): Team Wellington v Wanderers SC, Waitakere United v WaiBop United.