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Crunch games for United sides

Cameron Lindsay will take on a midfield role. PHOTOS/FILE

FOOTBALL

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

MEN

Wairarapa United v Waterside Karori

Trust House Wairarapa United have signed a defender and a midfielder to strengthen their squad for the last few weeks of the Central League.

United lost prolific striker Jared Cunniff and French midfielder Hugo Delhommelle to Wellington Olympic and Miramar Rangers, respectively, with both clubs guaranteed places in the new national championship.

Their moves were compounded with the shock resignation of coach Phil Keinzley last week.

Interim coach Paul Ifill confirmed on Thursday that defender Josh Cremen [Palmerston North Marist] and midfielder Ryan Mairs [Nelson] have signed for the rest of the season.

Mairs played for Wairarapa United in the winning Under-19 team at last year’s national championship.

Ifill said Cremen was likely to go straight into the starting lineup for today’s Central League clash, and Mairs would provide cover when needed.

With the loss of Cunniff, who scored 15 league goals for United this season, Ifill will reshuffle the side.

Jonty Roubos and Ifill are likely to fill the strikers’ roles, with Cameron Lindsay coming into the midfield with Cory Chettleburgh, Riley Grover, and Matt Tod-Smith.

Ifill said Cunniff’s absence meant youngsters Harrison Dudley and Luca Molnar could be pushed into more attacking roles.

United and Waterside Karori drew 1-1 in the first round at Karori Park, but Ifill said playing on the artificial turf would be a massive advantage to the home side.

“I think they’re better on grass, and they don’t like coming here.”

United are fourth on 18 points and on target to qualify for the national championship. Waterside are seventh on 14 points. Ifill said the national championship is definitely on the players’ minds.

“It’s going to be difficult without Jared, but some of us may never be in a position like this again.

“If you said that with five games to go that you were sat in a position to make the national league and with the lineup we’ve got, I think it’s do-able.

“Take the Miramar game out of it, which is massively difficult, but the other four games are winnable.”

As for a coach to replace Keinzley, Ifill said the club are working on some prospects.

Kickoff is at 3.30pm today at Trust House Memorial Park.

WOMEN

Wairarapa United v Palmerston North Marist

Molly Woodhead … pillar in United defence.

Tumu ITM Wairarapa United can take a massive step today towards their first W-League title if they beat Palmerston North Marist.

The two teams are locked together at the top of the league, with Marist ahead on goal difference.

The visitors underlined their goal-scoring potential in netting 11 goals against Victoria University last week, whereas United stumbled to their second loss, 2-3 away to Waterside Karori.

Marist won the first-round clash in Palmerston North 3-1, with the first two goals coming in the opening three minutes, and coach Ifill said they must be strong defensively from the start.

If they got that right, “we’re good enough to go forward and score goals”.

Like the men, playing at Memorial Park was a big advantage for the women.

A win over Marist would put United in the box seat to win the league.

“If we were to win the next two league games, I think we win the league – so we must go in full of confidence this week.”

Midfielder Kelsi Rutene will miss the match – being stuck in Australia after the transtasman travel bubble was closed while in Perth to watch partner Dane Lett play for the Black Sticks against Australia.

Kickoff is 11.30am today at Trust House Memorial Park.

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