Callan Elliot (left), one of the three Rathkeale College players in Wairarapa United starting line-up. PHOTO/SUZANNE OLIVER
By Gary Caffell
A depleted Wairarapa United won’t lack incentive in their Central League men’s football fixture with Lower Hutt City at Memorial Park, Masterton on Sunday, starting at 2.30pm.
The coveted Eva Francis Memorial Trophy will be at stake, utility player Seule Soromon will notch up his 150th appearance for the club’s premier side, club statistician Rob Duncan will be attending his 250th consecutive premier side game and it will be the final dress rehearsal before the Chatham Cup quarter-final against Central United in Auckland the following weekend.
And there is also the need to quickly erase the memories of a poor effort against Taranaki last Sunday when the 4-2 loss virtually ended any hope had of Wairarapa United winning the Central League title for the very first time.
They still lie second but are seven points behind Western Suburbs who can seal that title by beating bottom-placed Palmerston North Marist on Saturday.
Three regulars will be missing from the Wairarapa United starting line-up.
Goalkeeper Coey Turipa and defender Bryan Kalteck are serving one-match suspensions after picking up their fifth yellow cards against Taranaki while another key member of the defensive unit, Cameron Lindsay, is being rested because another yellow card for him would see him out of Chatham Cup consideration.
Replacing the in-form Turipa in goal is Scott Morris while Taylor Hall-Jones and Stephen Sprowson will come in for Kaltak and Lindsay.
Both Morris and Sprowson are students at Rathkeale College as is speedy midfielder Callan Elliot, meaning that Wairarapa United will start with three under-18 players in their team.
Even allowing for the changes Wairarapa United would have to be strongly fancied to beat a Lower Hutt City side who have recorded just the four wins and two draws from their 14 matches this season but coach Phil Keinzley is taking nothing for granted.
He says that with Lower Hutt City still being in the relegation zone they would come to Masterton determined to make the most of the home team’s situation and a tight contest was in prospect.
“It’s not the sort of game where we only have to turn up to win — if we play like we did against Taranaki we’ll get the same result.”
Keinzley said the Wairarapa United game plan would revolve around creating space for dangerous attackers such as Paul Ifill, Sam Mason-Smith and Alex Ridsdale to cut loose but, at the same time, it would be important not to compromise their defensive effort.
“We were rushing things against Taranaki and paid the price, we don’t want to get into that again.”