Hamish Watson, right, will be a key figure for Wairarapa United. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

FOOTBALL

JAKE BELESKI
jake.beleski@age.co.nz

Wairarapa United are bracing for a different type of football from Birkenhead United when the two teams meet in Saturday’s Chatham Cup quarterfinal at Memorial Park in Masterton [5pm].

A physical, abrasive approach is what Wairarapa coach Phil Keinzley is expecting from Birkenhead, after he travelled to Auckland to watch them play at the weekend.

Keinzley said there had been a lot of talk around the youth of the Birkenhead squad, but what he saw was nothing out of the ordinary.

“I went up and had a look at Birkenhead and they weren’t as young as they were made out to be.

“They might be young as far as Auckland is concerned, but they’re nowhere near as young as some teams down here.”

Birkenhead, like Wairarapa, have won the Chatham Cup before, achieving the feat in 2016, while Wairarapa’s title came in 2011.

Both teams lost in the quarterfinals of last year’s Chatham Cup, and Keinzley said they would have to be disciplined to give themselves a chance of making it through to the semifinals.

“What was a concern [watching Birkenhead] was the amount of fouls on the goalkeeper.

“The opposition goalkeeper would have been fouled at least seven times after he’d received the ball, and there was a lot of fouling off the ball.

“They’re a very tall, physical team.”

Wairarapa will have to be disciplined in their own approach, while hoping their players get the protection they’re entitled to from the officials.

Keinzley said he was impressed with aspects of Birkenhead’s play, and expects them to provide a torrid test for his side.

“I was impressed with the work-rate of their team and their physicality and fitness.

“They play quite a different style of play that I haven’t seen down here before.”

Both teams have performed well to reach the quarterfinals, but Birkenhead are yet to be tested away from home.

After a bye in round one, they beat Waiheke United 1-0 in round two, Papamoa Football Club 5-1 in round three, and Western Springs 4-3 in round four.

Wairarapa, in contrast, scored two emphatic wins away from home before surviving a thriller at home in the fourth round.

They also had a bye in round one, before beating Wellington United 6-3 in round two, Wellington Olympic 5-0 in round three, and sneaking past Stop Out 2-1 in round four.

In last year’s quarterfinals, Wairarapa went down 0-2 to eventual runners-up Central United, and Birkenhead lost 0-3 to eventual champions Onehunga Sports.

If the match is tied after 90 minutes on Saturday, the teams will play two 15-minute halves of extra time, before going to a penalty shootout.

The winning team will then move through to the semifinals, and will be hoping the luck of the draw falls in their favour so they can host the match.