Waikato match a must-win for Manawatu
YOUNGHEART Manawatu’s playoff hopes are coming down to the crunch and they need to beat Waikato FC at Memorial Park tomorrow to keep their New Zealand Football Championship hopes alive.
YoungHeart are just three points behind third-placed Otago and, although they have six games remaining, two of them are against Auckland City.
Besides tomorrow’s home game with Waikato, the other three are against Otago, Canterbury and Hawke’s Bay and are all away from home.
Playing those key games away from Memorial Park might be a godsend with YoungHeart’s away form looking far more convincing.
But the pressure will be on to turn last week’s good effort in their 3-2 loss to Waitakere into three points against Waikato
It was another loss in a game where NZP YoungHeart squandered numerous scoring chances before falling behind against the run of play, much the same as happened against Wellington and Otago.
Strikers Seule Soromon, Campbell Banks and the rest of those getting into scoring positions have to put the ball in the net.
It’s been frustrating for the dwindling fans rolling up to Memorial Park seeing so many good chances squandered, only for the defence to then concede a goal and the game go downhill from there.
Defender Colin Falvey’s return will be a big boost to the defence, but with attacking player Takayumi Omi still out, there’s no depth on the bench for coach Bob Sova to bring on a substitute who can have an immediate impact on the game.
Sova has said he was confident that if YoungHeart play as they did against Waitakere, they’ll turn the corner and get the three points that are a must.
There’s no ‘‘if’’ about it, they have to.
The players only need to look at midfielder Cory Chettleburgh for inspiration.
He’s been the hardest working player this season.
All Chettleburgh needs to add to his industrious game is three or four goals before the end of the season.
There’s no doubt he’s got the ability with one of the league’s most powerful shots.
Fellow midfielder Raf de Gregorio has begun playing more to the level expected of him in the last two games and for YoungHeart to get on a winning run, de Gregorio has to dominate the central midfield.
Defensively, YoungHeart needs to stop conceding the soft goals, but it must be frustrating for them to see so many chances blown up front.
The combination between Falvey and Adam Cowan in the heart of the defence is a key.
But it’s up front where things need to change where Soromon’s conversion rate is awful.
He creates so many chances and then spoils them with a poor final shot, and for such a prolific scorer he rarely strikes the ball well.
And Banks needs to get further forward and get shots in.
Waikato won’t be a pushover, with former All White midfielder Jeff Campbell joining the team and YoungHeart often having difficulty dealing with Waikato player-coach Che Bunce.
Waikato captain and former YoungHeart player Sean van Rooyen is suspended.
Campbell Banks, left, and Nathan Cooksley, centre, at YoungHeart Manawatu training.