Dragons safe but looking to sustain momentum
The pressure is off Canterbury United but captain Dan Terris insists there will be no slacking as the Dragons bid to build momentum for the national league playoffs.
Canterbury host ASB premiership cellar-dwellers Youngheart Manawatu at English Park tomorrow with a top-four berth already guaranteed.
"We'll be able to go out and play with no pressure on us, but we want to get as high up the table as we can," Terris said.
"The boys have done well in the last few games and we need to make sure we maintain that so we can go into the playoffs with momentum."
The Dragons thrashed Manawatu 9-1 in Christchurch last season but Terris said the crowd's expectations shouldn't be as high tomorrow.
"We'll definitely be the favourites and we'll certainly be looking to attack them and score goals. But we played them earlier in the season and had to grind out a 2-0 win after scoring quite late in the game. They weren't a bad side, they put us under a bit of pressure."
Terris said the Dragons were determined to finish third on the table and bottom of the table Manawatu will be wanting to avoid the wooden spoon.
"We both have a lot to play for, so it should be an open game."
Midfielder Darren White, who is suspended after collecting a fourth yellow card last week, is the only Dragon unavailable.
Centreback Tom Schwarz is sitting on three cautions and coach Keith Braithwaite will be mindful of not losing his tallest defender before the playoffs.
Terris is now fully recovered from a chronic calf injury and hopes to get some game-time after sitting on the bench in the 1-1 draw with Hawke's Bay United in Napier.
Central midfielder Josh Smith, who faces his former Manawatu mates, has returned to Christchurch after a holiday work placement in his home town of Palmerston North, where he had to practise on his own.
Braithwaite will finalise his starting lineup after training today but Andy Barton could be pressing for a start in White's right wing berth with Ken Yamamoto now entrenched on the left flank.
Manawatu's task tomorrow won't be helped by veteran midfielder Adam Cowan's suspension and Vanuatu international Seule Soromon's unavailability, but coach Stu Jacobs can still call on top scorer Tom Mosquera.
Squads - Canterbury United: Adam Highfield, Danny Knight (gks), Louie Bush, Dan Terris (c), Tom Schwarz, Julyan Collett, Nick Wortelboer, Andy Barton, Aaron Clapham, Josh Smith, Ken Yamamoto, Chris Murphy, Russell Kamo, Ash Wellbourn, Nathan Knox, Michael Fifii.
Youngheart Manawatu: Matt Borren, Ben Wilkes (gks), Liam Higgins, Alex Rufer, Kade Schrijvers, Nathan Cooksley, Wade Randle, Tom Mosquera, Khair Jones, Tyson Brandt, Billy Scott, Dale Higham, Sam Redwood, Grant Robson.
In other round 13 matches tomorrow, minor premiers Waitakere United travel to third-placed Hawke's Bay, second-ranked Auckland City host Waikato and Otago is at "home" against Team Wellington in Invercargill, the first time a premiership match has been played there.