Waikato match a must-win for Manawatu

Manawatu Standard - - SPORT - By Tony Cof­fin

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.

Round the cones: Photo: SAM BAKER

Camp­bell Banks, left, and Nathan Cook­sley, cen­tre, at YoungHeart Manawatu train­ing.

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