Paul Ifill (right), very doubtful starter for Chatham Cup match. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

By Gary Caffell

Wairarapa United have been struck a possible hammer blow leading into their Chatham Cup men’s football last 16 match with Miramar Rangers at Memorial Park, Masterton this coming Saturday.

Star striker Paul Ifill has been listed a “very doubtful” starter after suffering a reoccurrence of a hamstring injury about midway through the second half of Wairarapa United’s latest Central League fixture with Napier City Rovers, a match won by Wairarapa United 3-1.

“It doesn’t look good for Paul, not good at all,” Wairarapa United coach Phil Keinzely confirmed on Monday.

“It’s an old injury which has cropped up again and he’s really struggling, right now I’d say he’s no chance to be playing.”

The loss of Ifill would be huge for Wairarapa United as not only is the former Phoenix ace a prolific goal scorer but his tactical nous and clever ball skills combine to make him their most influential playmaker as well.

However, any reluctance on the part of Keinzley not to risk him is wholly understandable as Wairarapa United are still in with a chance of winning their first ever Central League title, and with four rounds of matches still to be played, they can ill afford to lose him for the rest of that campaign.

“Nobody can fill his boots, that’s the sort of class act he is,” Keinzley said of Ifill.

“Obviously we’d love to have him for Saturday but if it takes another week or two to have him right we’ll also settle for that.”

Also subbed because of an injury hassle in the Napier City Rovers match was Cory Chettleburgh, an integral part of the Wairarapa United midfield, but his calf strain is not expected to stop him from taking the field this coming weekend.

The decision of Swede Ermal Hajdari to extend his stay with Wairarapa United for at least another week is also welcome news.

In his limited appearances for Wairarapa United, Hajdari has left a big impression with his attacking skills and if Ifill is out he and skipper Sam Mason-Smith, who also been in grand form, will assume the goal scoring responsibilities.

“We always knew we only had Ermal for a few games before he heads off overseas and it’s great that he’s decided to give us an extra week, he could be very important to us,” Keinzley said.

As to Miramar Rangers, the Wairarapa United coach says their mixed form in the Central League, where they had five wins, two draws and seven losses, bears no resemblance to their actual strength.

The absence of their many Team Wellington players because of O-League commitments affected them badly early on and once they dropped off the pace in the league they were clearly intent on making the Chatham Cup their number one goal for the 2017 season.

“Don’t be fooled, they are a hell of a lot stronger than their league form would suggest.

“They’ve got some hugely talented individuals and they’ll all be on deck for this one, you can bet on that.”

Saturday’s match will kick off at 5.30pm with Keinzley hoping a big and vocal crowd will be on hand to cheer on the home side as they look to repeat the heroics of 2011 when they went all the way through to the Chatham Cup final where they beat Napier Rovers 2-1.

“You can never underestimate the importance of having the crowd behind you, it gives the players that extra edge which can mean so much in the end result.”