Team Taranaki will be out to put daylight between themselves and the rest when they take on Havelock North at Pukekura Park tomorrow.
With only four rounds left in football's Federation League, Taranaki have a four-point lead over closest challengers Wanganui Athletic, although the River City side have a game in hand.
The ideal scenario this weekend would be a win for Team Taranaki, and a loss for Wanganui Athletic against Palmerston North Marist.
In the first-round clash against Havelock North, Team Taranaki escaped with a 2-1 victory.
"We took the lead early after a promising start and should have capitalised on further chances to extend that lead," coach Ian McGrath recalled. "However, we gifted them an equaliser just before halftime, which made the rest of the game tough for us."
Although only mid-table, the Hawke's Bay side have overcome a tardy beginning to the season to be competitive against the top sides.
McGrath expects to have a full squad of 16 players to choose from, including new boy Jonathan Fletcher.
Originally from Taranaki and a former student of Francis Douglas Memorial College, Fletcher is home on a summer vacation from studying at Merrimack College in the US where he is on a football scholarship. The midfielder has just completed his second year of study towards a Health Science degree and McGrath is confident he has a player who can add real value in the run in.
"I have been tracking him for two years now, staying in touch and talking to his family about what we can offer in New Zealand, while he is in between seasons," McGrath said.
"He is a versatile midfielder, a physical presence at 6ft 3in and an intelligent player." Fletcher appears an ideal substitute for Jayden Taylor, who is injured.
AT A GLANCE
TEAM TARANAKI vs HAVELOCK NORTH
Noon tomorrow, Pukekura Park
- Taranaki Daily News
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