Coach claims Dragons could win national league

Last updated 05:00 11/01/2014

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Canterbury United are good enough to win their first national league title, according to their new assistant coach.

Former New Zealand Knights striker Sean Devine joined the Dragons this season to assist longtime head coach Keith Braithwaite.

He said Canterbury must target six points from their first two games of 2014 to consolidate a place in the playoffs bracket.

"We are definitely in a good position now [fourth behind four-time champions Waitakere United, Team Wellington and Oceania champions Auckland City].

"We've got two home games coming up and if we can get maximum points from those and look to get something against Auckland away, then we have Southern United at home, it could really be looking good for us."

Devine said if the Canterbury players can replicate the first-half performance from their 3-2 win over Waitakere before Christmas there was "no reason why they can't go on and win" the league.

He said Auckland were still the team to watch, but Canterbury held them to a scoreless draw to "kickstart our season" and had beaten Wellington and Waitakere.

All three rivals were strong but there was "no-one in this league to fear".

"Keith and I keep saying to the boys that if they keep believing in themselves and work hard, it will pay off."

Devine said the Dragons had been sound defensively and were getting good value from their central midfield duo of All White Aaron Clapham, former Scottish professional Stu Kelly and ex-Everton reserve team player Steve Morrison.

While Clapham has been the individual standout, Devine said Morrison had brought a lot of finesse and had a good playing pedigree in the UK and Kelly was "totally dedicated" and had adjusted well to a different, deeper role this season.

"Those three just seem to have gelled and it's nice to see everyone on the pitch is working for each other."
He's also been impressed with the camaraderie in the Canterbury squad.

New striker Federico Marquez was also striking up a promising partnership with Russell Kamo.

"Feddy gives us another dimension. He's another guy who could probably play at a higher level. He's got a few things to work on but he's aware of those. But he's got an eye for goal and he's pacy."

Kamo remained a "class" striker, who created opportunities for others and had a "high [goals] assist ratio".
Devine would like to see Kamo bag a few more goals for his confidence, but he said that could come in the second round.

Devine had been coaching in Auckland before a job transfer to Christchurch and said he jumped at the chance when Braithwaite approached him to join the Dragons' management.

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"I'm absolutely loving it. I like working with Keith, we've got a good understanding and the same philosophy on the game."

Devine has accepted an offer to coach Cashmere Technical's player development league squad next winter and assist head coach John Brown with the first team.

Meanwhile, defenders Julyan Collett and Louie Bush have been brought into the Canterbury squad for tomorrow's match with WaiBop United at English Park.

Striker George Slefendorfas, who scored 13 goals for Canterbury in the 2011-12 campaign, returns to Christchurch with WaiBop.

WaiBop upset Canterbury 2-1 in Rotorua in the opening round and striker Milos Nikolic is the third top scorer in the league with four goals, one behind Clapham and Waitakere United's Australian import Richie Cardozo.


Canterbury United: Adam Highfield, Pieter Bierma, Pablo Moya, Dan Terris (c), Tom Schwarz, Danny Boys, Julyan Collett, Dan Schwarz, Louie Bush, Kris O'Neill, Stu Kelly, Aaron Clapham, Steve Morrison, Cory Mitchell, Michael White, Chris Murphy, Ken Yamamoto, Shawn O'Brien, Federico Marquez, Russell Kamo, Chris Bacon.

WaiBop United: Andy McNeill (c), Liam Higgins, Aaron Scott, Takahiro Yokota, Tyler Lissette, Masaki Nomoto, Mark Jones, Mikhail Bredeveldt, George Slefendorfas, Milos Nikolic, Marcel Galera Corbera, Jack McNab, Ben Latham, Maksim Manko, Jacob Hall, Shaydon Young, Raymond How, Alexis Varella, Nik Robson, Scott Hilliar, Wade Molony, Tom Probert, Reid Drake, Danyon Drake.

Kickoff: 2pm tomorrow at English Park.

- The Press

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