If there is to be a defining moment in Waitakere United’s season this is it. Sunday’s home game against an on-fire Canterbury United

Picture: Shane Wenzlick

9-3-2012 FOR WAITAKERE THE CHALLENGE IS MASSIVE If there is to be a defining moment in Waitakere United’s season this is it. Sunday’s home game against an on-fire Canterbury United at Fred Taylor Park is the sortie into the Last Chance Saloon – for both teams.

Waitakere have the ASB Premiership’s player of the month Chris Bale to lead their cause and is joined by team-mates Ross McKenzie and Tim Myers in the February team of the month. Not to be outdone, Keith Braithwaite also has three of his players Adam Highfield, Aaron Clapham and golden boot leader George Slefendorfas in that X1.

Clapham and Highfield were also acknowledged as players of the month in January and December.

That there is a ton of talent lining-up for the match of the round is not questioned.

But for Emblen the challenge is massive.

A terrific home record, apart from losses to crosstown rivals and runaway ASB Premiership leaders Auckland City, has kept Waitakere firmly in the hunt in both the Premiership and O-League. Sadly for Emblen all that good work at home has been undone by some shockers on the road.

Losses to Canterbury United, Hawkes Bay United, Auckland City, AS Tefana and, most recently, Ba have taken the gloss from Waitakere’s season and left them in the position of wondering whether they are going to have a chance to win anything.

A loss to Canterbury would leave Waitakere in third place and in danger of dropping to fourth – and a tougher semifinal against Auckland City – as they eye a second chance to reach next season’s O-League as winner of the Grand Final.

That is some way off.

More pressing is Sunday’s game and the opportunity to salvage something from an up and down season. The up the impressive home record, the down that abysmal run on the road.

While Emblen might, or should, be contemplating changes he is unlikely to shuffle the deck too much.

After missing the trip to Ba through suspension, Martin Bullock is back in contention which would allow Emblen to return to his more or less settled combination with Bullock joining Bale and captain Jake Butler in midfield. That could see Ross McKenzie drop back to left back and, if Aaron Scott and Jason Rowley are cleared to play after picking up knocks in Fiji, leave a selection conundrum for the remaining defensive positions.

With Matt Cunneen slotting in comfortably at centre-back, Emblen would then have to choose from Myers and Rowley as his partner. Scott would again be at right back.

Emblen is banking on another solid effort at home to get through this testing encounter.

“Nothing changes for us,” said Emblen. “It is another must-win game in a different competition. By winning we give ourselves a chance to getting back into second place. Sure, I wasn’t happy with the result in Fiji. We had 10 chances, they had four but our failure to put away the one-on-one opportunities we created cost us dearly.

“With the play-offs coming up we want to win which would give us the chance of a home final. We won’t have that unless we can get up to second.

“We have to take heart from our record at home. We have won five and lost five of our last 10 matches but all the losses have been away. I don’t want to say the boys try harder at home but something obviously changes when we are away.”


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