» Preview: Loaded WaiBOP United v Auckland City FC

Tickets Adult $10, Student & Pensioners $5, Children free.
Entry Gate 4, FMG Stadium Waikato.

We’ve had a while to work through and move on from our most recent ASB Premiership match, the 2-0 defeat at Canterbury United, and we now look forward to hosting the Auckland City juggernaut. The Navy Blues have just returned from Japan, where they were a little unlucky to lose to Japanese champions, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, at the FIFA Club World Cup. Sunday’s venue, FMG Stadium Waikato, has recent World Cup history of its own, having been one of the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup host grounds.

In previewing the game, Loaded WaiBOP United head coach, Peter Smith, said he couldn’t think of a better setting to host the champions. “The Stadium was humming during the U-20s and, while I don’t expect we’ll get anywhere near the same crowd numbers, it’s still an excellent mid-size football venue. Probably the best in the country,” said Smith. “Hopefully local fans will come along to enjoy the set-up here and watch what should be an entertaining game of football.

“We’ve shown in patches what we’re capable of and I don’t think I can say anything about Auckland that hasn’t already been said. They’re top drawer. Throw in the fact that our franchise doesn’t actually have too many more home games left and I think there’s plenty of reason to bring the fans out.”

Smith is interested to see how his players respond to this week’s confirmation of us passing our ASB Premiership license over to local club, Hamilton Wanderers, at the end of the season. “I guess for me, personally, my feelings are a bit mixed about the decision, mainly because I’ve been involved from the start of the franchise and have worked so hard to make it a success. But I can also see plenty of positives too,” said Smith. “We’ve got plenty of Wanderers lads in the side and I’m sure they’ll be buzzing with the news. In general, though, the players just want to go out there, put in a good performance, and test themselves against the best team in the country.

“We’re looking short-term now. We have to. As a group we’ll focus on each game as it comes along and do what we can to get something out of it, then move on to the next one and do the same. We still want to create a little local history by making the play-offs so we have all the incentive in the world to play well.”

Sunday’s match isn’t quite must-win for the side but, given the highly competitive nature of this season’s ASB Premiership, Smith thinks that expectation will arrive soon after the Christmas break. “I try to prepare my teams to win games, no matter who we’re playing, so the ‘must-win’ tag doesn’t really apply. We have the attitude that we want to go out and win every game we play, even against sides like Auckland City. Especially against sides like Auckland City,” explained Smith. “Unfortunately, we’ve been a bit inconsistent this season, so the aim will be to treat Sunday like a good old-fashioned cup final, then refresh over the summer break and come back firing for the run-in to the end of the season.”

The record between the two sides would suggest Auckland City only need to turn up to get the points. They’ve won all four matches, with our two previous home games, both at John Kerkhof Park in Cambridge, seeing the visitors victorious by the same margin – 2-0. Clearly, this is one record we’d like to improve on before we hand our ASB Premiership license on.

This is our sixth consecutive match to be played in front of the Sky Sport cameras this season, so if you can’t make it to FMG Stadium Waikato then you can tune in at 4.35pm on Sunday afternoon to watch the game on TV.

Our record v Auckland City: P: 4, W: 0, D: 0, L: 4, GF: 3, GA: 10

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