Emma McLeod, on ball, is one of Dalefield’s rising stars. An injured Rosie Rooderkirk, left, will miss today’s match. PHOTOS/FILE

HOCKEY

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

Dalefield v Hutt United, 2.15pm, Clareville

Dalefield player/co-coach Benedict van Woerkom.

Farriers Dalefield player/co-coach Benedict van Woerkom is demanding a better start to their crucial Wellington premier semifinal clash with fierce rivals Hutt United than the two stuttering efforts that have plagued their last two games.

The top qualifiers stumbled to their first loss of the season a fortnight ago to Hutt [4-3], after conceding early goals, and gave up two first-half goals to Victoria last weekend before recovering to win 4-2.

Van Woerkom wants the players to make an aggressive start to today’s game at the Trust House Wairarapa Hockey Complex.

“If we can bring some energy in our press, hopefully that will get the guys in the swing of things, and everyone gets engaged from the start,” van Woerkom said.

“If we can take an early opportunity, it gives the guys confidence and hopefully, we don’t have to play catch up from there.

“If we can get a lead, we have plenty of experience and enough ball players to be able to control the game.”

Van Woerkom said Daniel van Woerkom’s return from injury will bolster the defensive line and improve communication throughout the field.

He also said he is better prepared than he was for the loss two weeks ago, having missed the first-round 6-2 victory.

“I’m expecting they will have a few tricks up their sleeve, but I’m also a bit more aware of their personnel how they play.”

He said they were a niggly in-your-face team, but Dalefield would be prepared “for what they might throw at us”.

“They shift the ball really well, and they focus on two-touch hockey … they have lots of interchanges between layers, so we need to organise and communicate well defensively, and not buy into their chit chat, and make sure we’re one step ahead of them in our press.”

Van Woerkom said there is the experience in the team, given Dalefield’s four titles over the previous seven seasons, to win and progress straight to the final in two weeks.

“If we execute our basics and our game plan, I’m confident we can have a good day at the office.”

Co-coach Dane Lett is away with the Black Sticks at the Commonwealth Games, while Myles Houlahan is unavailable due to work commitments.

WOMEN

Dalefield v Harbour City, 12.30pm, Clareville

It’s do-or-die for Farriers Dalefield when they host Harbour City in the elimination semifinal in the Wellington premier championship today.

The winners will play the losers of the top-two battle between Hutt United and Northern United for a place in the final on August 20. For today’s losers, the season will effectively be over.

“It’s a one-off game, and it’s like a final for us. If we drop it, we’re out. We don’t want to be playing for third and fourth, and we’ve done that before, and it sucks,” Dalefield coach Michael O’Connor said.

Close games have become the norm between the two teams. Dalefield won a shootout to beat Harbour City in last year’s final, while they won this year’s two round-robin games 1-0 and 2-1.

“We’ve got to realise that they want to win this as much as we want to win it. They won’t be thinking we’ve lost to them a couple of times, they’ll be thinking they can win.”

O’Connor said Dalefield have hit their straps at the right time and is confident they are in good enough form to keep their hopes of third straight title alive.

“Our game has got so much better in the past four weeks. As long as we keep the ball, and if we get least 50-50 ball possession, I think we’ll take care of them.”

Dalefield will be without the influential Rosie Roodekirk, who has a serious ankle injury which could keep her out for the rest of the season.



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