Sam Mason-Smith scoring from a penalty in last weekend’s win over Wellington Olympic. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
By Jake Beleski
Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash with Western Suburbs could well be a season-defining moment for Wairarapa United, with only one point separating the two sides on the Central League ladder.
Both teams have won eight of their 11 matches to date, but Suburbs sit one point ahead on 26 points courtesy of drawing one more match than United.
Suburbs only loss came in their visit to Masterton in April they have since found a rich vein of form.
United’s captain, Sam Mason-Smith, was under no illusions as to how important a match it could turn out to be.
“For everyone involved at either Western Suburbs or Wairarapa United it’s a big occasion because of what it might mean going ahead to the rest of the season.
“Whoever wins gains momentum and goes clear, so to speak.”
Mason-Smith likened the challenge to that of playing a final, even with a further six rounds to be played after this weekend.
Going to Suburbs’ home ground was “always tough”, and patience would be the key for United, he said.
“Being one point behind them, we can’t afford for them to go four points clear.
“But regardless of where they go, they play very good football, are patient, and move the ball around well . . . we have to be patient off the ball.”
Not conceding the first goal would be their primary objective early in the match, before looking to make use of their attacking firepower when the opportunities arose.
“If you go ahead you give yourself the best possible chance, and if you go down early away from home it can be a bit disheartening, and it can be a long 90 minutes.
“If we can stay patient and keep the game nil-nil, then if we get chances we need to take them because there might not be many, but we do create quite a lot normally so it should be good.”
The task of getting the win would fall upon the players who have been doing the job all season, with Mason-Smith indicating they would field a full-strength line-up.
“The players that have recently come in, Ermal (Hajdari) and the like, have done really well so we’re looking to going into the hit out at full strength.”
The match kicks off at 2pm at Endeavour Park in Porirua.
Meanwhile, the Wairarapa United women’s team will have a tough task in front of them on Saturday night when they host the table-topping Parapine ITM Upper Hutt City side at Memorial Park.
Kickoff is at 5.30pm.