Tasman United's depth to be tested in final game against Southern
Suspensions, injuries and late season departures has left Tasman United coach Davor Tavich scrambling to find available players just to fill his team sheet for their final game against Southern United.
With regular starters Cameron Lindsay, Alex Ridsdale, Luca Perico and Ryan Stewart all set to watch the game from the sidelines, and Nicolas Abot leaving for Australia during the week, Tavich could be forced to hand three players their starting debuts in the round 18 Stirling Sports Premiership match at Trafalgar Park on Saturday.
Mid-season signing Claudio Amad and teenagers Matt Tod-Smith, David Maisey, Callan Elliot and Labu Pan are the handful of replacements Tavich has available to plug the gaps in the starting 11.
Tod-Smith and Amad appear the most likely candidates among that group to pick up significant minutes, though Tavich said Pan, who only joined the team for training on Thursday, could be in line for a shock start at left-back as well, weighing up whether to deploy him or Maisey at fullback.
Pan, who scored an outrageous bicycle kick for the Nelson College First XI last year, started at left-back in their first preseason outing against the Wellington Phoenix reserves but has not once featured in the match-day squad during the season proper and hasn't been training with the team either.
But Tavich has was confident the 18-year-old former refugee had the ability to perform, should he be called upon.
"He's been training hard with FC Nelson and he obviously spent the preseason with the squad so he's not a stranger to the players. He's well liked and a quality young footballer so I have no doubt that Labu could step up in required. It won't be easy, but I don't think it's going to be easy for anybody this Saturday," he said.
Even though Southern sit at the bottom of the table and come into the match on the back of six straight losses, Tavich said the absence of four starters makes the job that much tougher.
"I don't think there's a team on this planet that is not going to suffer from losing four starting 11 players in one game so it will be challenging for us, there's no doubt about it. But the young boys have a chance and the senior boys will have to carry a bit more of a load."
Though they cannot be overtaken by Southern, Tasman remain just one point above ninth-placed Hamilton Wanderers meaning a win would guarantee they secure eighth without waiting to see the outcome of Hamilton's game against Hawke's Bay United.
"We want to win every game but this one especially because it's the last game and it's a home game so we'll try to close the season off on a high regardless of who is on the pitch, but I'm sure they'll try do whatever they can do to spoil the party."
Tavich said the players had moved on from their record 5-1 defeat against Team Wellington last weekend and conceded it was always going to be an almighty task to overturn a side that was brimming with confidence after cruising through the OFC Champions League group stage, especially when it was Tasman's first game in 21 days.
"It was always going to be difficult and as much as you want to win it, sometimes you just have to be realistic and understand some jobs are harder than others. Last weekend was definitely one of those situations where physically and mentally we were not as sharp as they were, but we've moved on and we want to finish on a positive note."
Saturday's game kicks off at 1pm.