It’s crunch time for Loaded WaiBOP United. After a Christmas break in which the team relaxed, then recharged, then got down to some serious work, we now face a fixture list that sees us play the three teams currently below us on the ASB Premiership table in our next three matches. Two of those are at home, but we begin the 2016 portion of our campaign with a trip to Wellington to play the Phoenix.
Head coach, Peter Smith, was in an upbeat mood when we spoke to him prior to the match. “We had a couple of results go against us prior to the break, but that’s the way football is,” he said. “In our next few games we’ll be looking to tighten up a bit while also being more clinical on attack. Yes, with the teams we’re playing it’s an opportunity to get some points, but they’ll all be thinking the same when they play us. The pressure’s on everyone in the league now, including us. It’s exciting.”
Looking at this weekend’s opponents, the Wellington Phoenix, Smith isn’t 100% sure what side he’ll be facing at Newtown Park. “It’s been pretty well documented in the media how many players their A-League side have out through injury and suspension,” he explained. “They have a big game against Brisbane on Sunday so I’m guessing there won’t be too many risks taken with fringe first teamers for our match. That could mean opportunities for some of their younger players, though, and they’ve got some good ones down there. So we’ll see. All we can do is look to get our organisation right, execute the game plan, take a few chances…and hopefully that’ll mean we get the result we need.”
Smith is hoping for an upturn in fortunes that mirrors the 2014/15 campaign. “The first half of our season seems eerily similar to last year. In fact, we have more points now than we did at the break last summer,” he said. “So hopefully we can come back after the break and perform like we did in early 2015 and charge back into play-off reckoning.
“I’m not really into omens…but I’ll take anything if it means getting a few wins under the belt,” he chuckled.
There’s not too much history between the two sides as there have only been two fixtures, both last season. We won the ‘away’ match 2-0 in a game that was played at Auckland’s Eden Park (as a curtain-raiser to a Wellington Phoenix A-League match) before losing the return match 3-2 at Cambridge’s John Kerkhof Park.
This is our first game of the season not to be televised live on Sky Sport. But don’t worry, our media department will be at the game to bring you full behind-the-scenes and play-by-play coverage.
Our record v Wellington Phoenix: P: 2, W: 1, D: 0, L: 1, GF: 4, GA: 3.
Photo: WaiBOP United.