Coach Davor Tavich says Tasman United can match Eastern Suburbs' athleticism
Tasman United will be looking to continue their mini resurgence under new coach Davor Tavich when they host in-form Eastern Suburbs at Trafalgar Park on Sunday.
Tasman went down 4-2 in their previous meeting with Eastern at Bill McKinlay Park in round seven of the Stirling Sports Premiership, unable to hang on as the opposition scored twice in the final two minutes.
Eastern will be a tough prospect again this weekend, their recent form - having won three of the past four games - and position on the table clear evidence of that. With 27 points, they are only shaded by Auckland City and Team Wellington on goal differential, and they will be desperate to keep themselves in the playoff equation with the congested top six separated by just four points heading into the final three rounds.
Though the semifinals are well out of reach for Tasman, they still have something to play for, now setting their sights on eighth place as they trail Hamilton Wanderers by just two points after beating them 1-0 last weekend.
The result was just Tasman's second win of the season and continued the team's unbeaten run under Tavich, who replaced Richard Anderson a fortnight ago.
Tavich's tactical tweaks have given Tasman much more stability at the back and the defensive unit will have to back up their best performance of the season with another against Eastern's lethal attack, spearheaded by 1.95m tall Nigerian striker Osita Chikere and one-time Wellington Phoenix player Sean Lovemore.
"They are very dangerous going forward and very strong and very fast but I think we can match that physicality at the back," Tavich said.
"We have a very athletic back four, they are very strong and fast and I think we are confident of matching that pace and athleticism.
"If we can keep a clean sheet again this week I'm confident we will score because we have very good attacking players and the balance is very good."
Although he said Eastern's squad is full of "good players," including All Whites Tim Payne and Moses Dyer, Tavich added that Tasman does not fear anyone.
"We are not really worried about who we play anymore. We know we are good enough to beat anybody. I know we can lose against anyone too, but we know we have the quality to get something out of every game and we are confident in the way we play."
Tasman will be without suspended defensive midfielder Robbie Pearson, who sits out for just the second time this season, after picking up his fifth yellow card.
His unavailability will see Dylan Burns return to the starting 11 to partner Cameron Lindsay and Alex Ridsdale in the midfield three with Lindsay dropping into the holding role.
Tavich said it was important to get another good result this weekend as Tasman won't play again until March 12, the premiership breaking for the OFC Champions League.
"We would love to go into the break with a positive result from Sunday as it brings a lot of happiness to the changing room and positivity is always a good thing."
Sunday's game kicks off at 2pm.