Mt Maunganui’s Links Ave Stadium will play host to a full day of national league football this Saturday, with a WaiBOP United double-header scheduled for the Bay of Plenty’s premier club football venue.
WaiBOP United plays Auckland-based Wanderers SC at 2.15pm in their round 11 ASB Premiership match, while the Bay SportsMed WaiBOP United Youth Team kicks off at 11.30am against Auckland United in the ASB Youth League.
For WaiBOP United this fixture presents itself as an opportunity to snap a run of five games without a win when they take the field against the league’s bottom side. Wanderers, like WaiBOP United, have generally been competitive against the top teams but have struggled to squeeze out the points they need to push themselves higher up the table.
WaiBOP United’s head coach, Peter Smith, has found himself in frustratingly familiar circumstances on an almost weekly basis. “We’re competing well and I can’t fault the players for their effort – they’re giving me everything they have,” he said after last Saturday’s 3-2 defeat against Hawke’s Bay United in Napier. “I guess, with the restrictions we have, the performances are surprisingly good, but at the end of the day this is a results game and we haven’t got as many results as we’d have liked.”
The match against Hawke’s Bay United was a classic case in point. “We were poor for the first half hour or so and Hawke’s Bay raced out to a 3-0 lead,” Smith explained. “But after that we came storming back and should have at least grabbed a point, if not won the game. I’m disappointed for the players that their efforts weren’t rewarded, but we just have to take another one on the chin and look to put things right this weekend.”
Smith is hoping a change of scenery might also bring a change of fortune for WaiBOP United. “It’ll be great to head back to the Bay for what is, for me at least, really is a home game,” smiled the Tauranga-based Smith. “I’m from the area so it will be nice to bring the team here and show the locals what we’re about. Links Ave is a cosy little ground and I’m pleased we can showcase WaiBOP United and ASB Premiership football to the region.”
Both teams contain good representation from the Bay of Plenty. Along with Smith, local players Jack McNab and Tom Probert have become regulars in the side over the last month. McNab opened his ASB Premiership goal scoring account against Hawke’s Bay United last time out while centre-half Probert, at just 17 years of age, has acquitted himself well against some of the best attacking players in the league.
The youth team contains a good spread of players from across the Waikato and Bay of Plenty region. Otumoetai duo, Dylan Bull and Dylan Morris have already featured this season, with Bull scoring in the side’s last match, a 3-1 victory over Wanderers SC’s youth team. Connor Probert has been a mainstay of the side and also scored in the win over Wanderers SC. Tauranga City United’s Dean Styles and Whakatane Town’s Luke Searle have also featured in match day squads.