» Preview: Canterbury United (h)

We head to the Waikato this Saturday for the first of five home games at Cambridge’s John Kerkhof Park with the ever present need for points up front and centre.

The visitors are fifth-placed Canterbury United, a side we lost 2-0 to on the opening day of the season. Like most sides in the league, Canterbury will be harbouring very realistic play-off hopes and will be expecting to take something from this match.

Given the shape of the table, we simply have to get something out of it. That means we’re all set for an intriguing encounter.

WaiBOP United’s head coach, Peter Smith, is relishing Saturday’s challenge. “Canterbury will be up for it and so will we. There’s so much at stake for both teams as we both simply have to win. More so for us, I guess, as a loss would probably see the gap to the teams above us widen,” said Smith prior to the match. “That’s what makes this such an exciting time of the season, though; there are must win games all over the place. Last weekend’s victory at Southern United was as welcome for us as it was deserved and a good way to blow out the Christmas cobwebs. We’ll be ready for Canterbury.”

There is more of a spotlight on the ASB Premiership now, and Smith is fully aware of what that could mean for his club. “You’d have had to be living with the wolves to not be aware of Auckland City’s recent efforts. While that was superb by them, it also has spin-offs for the rest of us in this league,” he explained. “The cash injection is very welcome, of course, but the international spotlight on the ASB Premiership could end up being even bigger. We’ve already been contacted by countless more overseas players, coaches and agents. It’s crazy. I expect the league will get even stronger, which will be great for football in this country.”

Getting back to Saturday’s match, Smith had a few special words of praise for the venue. “We’re in Cambridge for the first time this season. The Cambridge club put in a fantastic effort last season. They made their home our home, going the extra mile to turn John Kerkhof Park into an ASB Premiership venue. It’s great to be back and I look forward to catching up with so many familiar faces,” said Smith.

The match kicks off at 3pm on Saturday January 17. A curtain raiser between the Cambridge Red Devils and the FIFA All Stars kicks off at 12.30pm.

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