Hugo Delhommelle. PHOTOS/FILE
Western Suburbs will be a challenge – coach
Wairarapa United will be without two of their most influential players for the home clash with Western Suburbs on Saturday.
Coach Cory Chettleburgh has confirmed the team’s talisman, Paul Ifill, will be out for at least three weeks after tearing his hamstring in last Saturday’s 4-4 draw with Wellington United.
The home team will also be missing their freekick specialist and hero of last weekend’s draw, Hugo Delhommelle, who has returned to Syracuse University, New York for his graduation.
Chettleburgh is uncertain whether the Frenchman will return to the club but said he would know within the next week or two.
Delhommelle’s ability in deadball situations close to the 18m box will be sorely missed. He has a perfect three from three in the past two matches, plus another one that was ruled out by the referee, only for the retaken kick to find the back of the net.
Ifill’s influence on the team cannot be understated. The complexion of last Saturday’s game changed significantly after his departure after 35 minutes. His nose for a goal and canny ability to turn the slightest morsel into a goalscoring opportunity is irreplaceable.
Midfielder Taylor Hall-Jones is another who will miss the match against Wests, having suffered a hamstring strain against Wellington United.
On a positive note, one of Wairarapa United’s bright young stars of 2018 will play his first game of the season for the team on Saturday.
Liam Heard has returned from his American university and his defensive capabilities will be a huge asset for Chettleburgh.
“Liam will be back for three months and he will have gained a lot of experience from playing in the university league. He will play an important role in our defence.”
Chettleburgh will be hoping Heard’s return will help stop the worrying trend of the team giving up soft goals.
“All four of the goals we conceded [against Wellington] were preventable. Their second goal, there were four guys between the player and the goal, and individuals need to step up and take responsibility in those situations, but no one did.”
Chettleburgh is also working hard on the players’ concentration, especially straight after scoring a goal or at kick-offs. Two of Wellington’s goals came from kick-offs, the first immediately after Ifill had scored United’s first goal and the second within a minute of the second half restart.
Another major area of concern for Chettleburgh is when the team loses possession.
“At the moment, we tend to switch off when we turn over the ball, and our transition from offence to defence is too slow. The players are getting caught in two minds, whether it’s time to press or absorb the pressure.”
However, Chettleburgh is still confident despite being frustrated over the draw with Wellington.
“We had enough chances to win that game and we have to keep trying to work on players concentrating in those key moments. A lot of the boys are improving from week to week and that is all we can ask for.”
Western Suburbs will be a big step for United. They sit second in the Central League and come into the match on the back of a 3-2 away victory over league leaders Napier City Rovers, who put nine goals past United on Good Friday.
Chettleburgh is expecting a tough challenge.
“They [Wests] have a lost a few players, but they have a very good connection with the Ole Academy, so they always have a talented squad. They will play a possession game and try to play through us, so we know what to expect and we need to step up and deal with it.”
The match kicks off at Memorial Park at 3pm tomorrow.
Meanwhile the draws are out for the first round of the national knockout cups.
Wairarapa United has drawn Capital Premier League leaders Upper Hutt City in the first round of the Chatham Cup to be played on the weekend of May 10-11.
The Tumu ITM Wairarapa United women’s team have the bye in the first round of the Kate Sheppard Cup.