Liam Heard [green] could get a run as striker in his last game before heading back to the US. PHOTO/FILE

FOOTBALL

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

CENTRAL LEAGUE
Wairarapa United v Lower Hutt City – Sunday, 2pm

Veteran playmaker Paul Ifill is hopeful that last Sunday’s brave effort to hold Napier City Rovers to a 1-1 draw with only nine men will have a galvanising effect on the team.

Striker Josh Rudland was sent off after 63 minutes for a second yellow card and centre back Conor Turton was red-carded for a dangerous tackle six minutes later, leaving United two men down for more than 20 minutes.

Ifill said, “We proved that we can defend against a good team with only nine men and there should be no excuse against lesser teams now. For the coach, he’s seen us do it and now it’s about us taking a bit of responsibility.”

Rudland and Turton are suspended for two games forcing coach Davor Tavich to make some positional changes for tomorrow’s game at Trust House Memorial Park against Lower Hutt City, which is effectively a Wellington Phoenix development team.

Whether Tavich chooses to play three or four at the back, experienced midfielder Cameron Lindsay is expected to drop into the backline, a role he has performed well at in the past.

Sixteen-year-old Rathkeale student Riley Grover is also likely to get a rare start in the defence.

“We’ll give Riley a full game, as it’s almost a semi trial for the NZ Under-17s, and he’s matching up against the Phoenix young guns,” Tavich said.

Liam Heard will play either wing back or one of the front-three in his final game before heading back to Otterbein University in Ohio.

“It would be nice to send him off on a positive note,” Tavich said. “ It’s sad to see him go but that’s life.”

Tavich predicted a tough and entertaining game.

“Lower Hutt are a quality team; they’ve had mixed results this year, but I don’t think they are too worried about results in their academy set-up,” he said.

“They have a lot of talent, speed, and technical ability, so it’s going to be a big challenge but every game is the same really, and we’re going to go and match them with our speed and technical ability and see who comes out better off at the end of the game.

“It’s going to be hard but entertaining I would think, and you should see a few goals, hopefully not against us.”

The Eva Francis Memorial Trophy, held by Lower Hutt, will also be up for grabs.

In a compressed bottom half of the league table, United are tenth and last on five points, and Lower Hutt are fifth on seven points.

W-LEAGUE
Wairarapa United v Western Suburbs – today, 11am

Tumu ITM Wairarapa United coach Paul Ifill is hoping that last Saturday’s big win is the catalyst for a surge up the league table.

United had performed below expectations in previous games but finally clicked with a 7-1 thrashing of Seatoun away, for just their second win of the championship.

“We had been threatening to give a team a good hiding and at last we have so I’m hopeful that we can continue that and keep creating chances and putting them away,” Ifill said.

Fifth-placed United won’t get a better opportunity than at Trust House Memorial Park against Western Suburbs, who are ninth in the ten-team league.

However, Ifill wasn’t taking Wests lightly despite winning their first-round encounter 4-1 away.

“Regardless of where Wests are, they’re always tough to beat because they play very good football,” he said. “We have to win this game and then go on and keep winning.”

Wests have a talented line-up, with German squad member Maya Hahn, New Zealand Under-20 international Macey Fraser and Juliana Los forming an impressive midfield, between other youngsters.

“Last time we played them they had five 15-year-olds and they’re fantastic players but they’re not quite ready to match it with women, and you can see that they’ve got that ability but it’s going to take a bit of nurturing,” Ifill said.

United are missing veteran attacker Meisha Boone, with an ongoing knee injury, and midfielder Michelle Bgoni with concussion.