In-form Dragons tipped to repeat
His team is close to drowning in accolades but Canterbury Dragons coach Keith Braithwaite appears in little danger of losing his senses ahead of tomorrow's national league football match against Manawatu at Memorial Park in Palmerston North.
Despite the Dragons pummelling previously unbeaten Hawke's Bay 4-0 last weekend, which has been followed by a torrent of praise, Braithwaite seems oblivious to the clashing of cymbals and blasting of trumpets.
"It was just a good day for us. We played particularly well against Hawke's Bay," Braithwaite said.
"We knew we had to improve from a poor performance in the first game against Auckland. The lads have been working hard at training and having a bit of fun. The mood in the team is good at the moment."
If the Dragons players weren't enjoying this hot streak of form there would be good reason for Braithwaite to whistle in the sports shrinks.
With the Dragons sitting second on the national league table on 12 points, just one behind leader Waitakere United, there have already been suggestions that a title beckons. For that to happen Braithwaite will hope influential men such as Aaron Clapham and Russell Kamo don't allow their minds to wander in Palmerston North.
Manawatu are not a rabble but their record is hardly intimidating; they have won just one of their five matches and trail the Dragons by seven competition points already. Last weekend they stumbled to Waikato FC 3-2 after being 1-1 soon after halftime.
A porous defence, a lamentable statistic of leaking three goals a match is not flash. It is the worst defensive record in the league.
Yet Manawatu can still be a menace on attack and Tom Mosquera has created much of the carnage by ripping home seven goals in five games. Last year, the Dragons humiliated Manawatu 9-1.
Meanwhile, the Mainland Pride women's team hopes to become the first southern side to reach the national league final when they meet Auckland in their semifinal at English Park tomorrow.
Mainland won five of their six southern conference games to top their group by eight points. Auckland have had mixed results in the northern group, with two wins, two draws and two losses to finish in second place.
Northern and Capital will contest the other semi.
TEAMS CANTERBURY DRAGONS: Dan Terris, Adam Highfield, Vladimir Bayrev, Nick Wortelboer, Tom Schwarz, Darren White, Aaron Clapham, Russell Kamo, Dimitar Bayrev, Andy Barton, Josh Smith, Julyan Collett, Ash Wellbourn, Louie Bush, Ken Yamamoto, Tristan Nicol. MANAWATU: Matt Borren, Liam Higgins, Wade Randle, Kade Schrijvers, Andy Frampton, Nathan Cooksley, Seule Soromon, Adam Cowan, Tom Mosquera, Tyson Brandt, Jordan Martens, Dale Higham, Ben Wilkes, Sam Redwood, Grant Robson, Lewis Cumber.