WaiBop United need to win to stay in contention

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 21/12/2013

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Tomorrow's match against Team Wellington may determine whether WaiBop United will remain Premiership playoff contenders for the rest of summer.

WaiBop are sixth in the eight-team football league, just two points away from tomorrow's rivals in the capital, who sit in the last playoff spot of fourth heading into a holiday break.

An upset victory would give coach Peter Smith's troops a massive boost after the first part of their campaign produced some meritorious performances that could have been better rewarded than seven points from six outings.

However, to do so at Westpac Stadium would require WaiBop to tidy up the small lapses that have hindered some of the progress the new franchise has made.

Last weekend's 3-0 away loss to defending champions Waitakere United was symptomatic of how they have played this season - they matched the hosts in most aspects but were ultimately behind on the scoreboard after 90 minutes.

Smith knows his charges must now get more points from being more clinical.

"Our plan for this Sunday's match in Wellington will be quite simple - taking our chances and keeping things tight at the back," Smith said.

"We did neither in our last match against Waitakere United and, if we don't get these two things right, we could be in for another frustrating afternoon.

"We're hungry for our first away win of the season and, to be honest, need it to come this weekend if we're to stay in touch with the teams at the top of the table.

"Although it's currently quite tight, too many dropped points at this stage of the season could be fatal in a league with only 14 games."

Smith may have to do without top goalscorer Milos Nikolic, who missed last weekend's match with a quad injury, along with left back Liam Higgins, who is still recovering from a head knock suffered against Hawke's Bay United in Cambridge on November 23.

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- Waikato Times

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