By Gordon Glen Watson / asbpremiership.co.nz
PALMERSTON NORTH - "I'm looking for a response this week" - those are the words of Richard Murray as he goes in search of his first win as Otago coach when his side face Manawatu this Sunday.
It’s been a baptism of fire for new coach Richard Murray. The 36-year-old school teacher got off to a promising start when he nabbed a 2-2 draw away to Team Wellington.
That solid start to the season crumbled as they fell 6-0 to a rampant Waitakere United at Forsyth-Barr Stadium. Murray is philosophical ahead of the visit to Palmerston North.
“The Waitakere match was a learning experience – we played well in patches but naive decisionmaking cost us,” Murray said, “I expect a response this week, a bit of fight and three points.”
Otago is boosted by the return of Tristan Prattley while Peter Evans lines up in goal with Oswaldo Rodriguez drafted in as cover. Goalkeeper Callum Flaws has left the squad and won’t be returning this season.
Murray said: “Tristan adds experience and calm to the side and is important to the team. We can’t take any team in this league easy. Manawatu will be grafters like us.”
The Otago coach thought Waitakere United’s attacking pace caught his defence out and he is wary of YoungHeart’s Wairarapa United connection inflicting similar damage this Sunday.
“Suele Soromon takes some stopping. If we don’t close him down we won’t have learned the lessons from last week,” Murray said.
By contrast, YoungHeart Manawatu coach Stu Jacobs was in bouyant mood after last week's draw.
Tamed by Canterbury United in their opening match, Manawatu picked holes in a much fancied Hawke’s Bay side to get off the mark.
A tongue-in-cheek Jacobs said: "If we put six past Otago I'll be a very happy man."
Levity aside, achieving a level of consistency in team selection appears to be coach Jacobs biggest headache.
New signing Seule Soromon has yet to score this season, while goalkeeper Rhyss Keane has returned to Australia after a brief two match stint in Palmerston North.
Matt Borren returns between the sticks for the home side and looks set for a lengthy run as first choice custodian.
Pablo Moya – sent off in the Canterbury match – returns from suspension, while Fiji international, Pita Rabo, drops out of contention for personal reasons.
Recent history shows the chase for fourth spot is often an open affair with teams as low as seventh taking a shot at qualification up to the last day of the regular season.
A win would be a welcome boost toward that aim, even if the top three break clear of the chasing pack at this early stage.
Last season, Hawke’s Bay made a late dash for the playoffs from a seemingly hopeless position and only lost out on the final day of the regular season.
The opportunity before Jacobs and Murray this Sunday is clear.
Action gets underway at Memorial Park, Palmerston North, on Sunday with an earlier kick-off time of 12pm.
There are places in the squad for Tomas MOSQUERA, Wade RANDLE and Pablo MOYA, who returns from suspension.
Goalkeeper Oswaldo RODRIGUEZ is drafted in as a tentative replacement but must himself undergo a fitness test before confirming his availability. Regan COLDICOTT receives a call-up.
Goalkeeper Rhyss KEANE has returned to Australia while Fiji international Pita RABO is unavailable. Barry LEWIS is not selected. Michael FRASER has a broken collarbone.Barry LEWIS is not selected.
Donnie MacGREGOR is unavailable while both Zac RATHOBONE and Ant HANCOCK are not selected.
Seule SOROMON chases his first goal for the club since 2009.
Callum FLAWS withdraws from the Otago United squad.
Manawatu haven’t beaten Otago since 2009 when goals by Gustavo SERELEGUI and Jason HAYNE sealed a 2-0 win. Since then, Manawatu have lost three and drawn one of the previous four showdowns with Otago.
A rarity occurred when Otago United claimed two wins from two against YoungHeart Manawatu last season - the first time Otago have taken two wins off Manawatu in a single season, both home and away. It is only the third time that Otago have managed the same feat against ASB Premiership opponents.
ASB Premiership - Round 3
Sunday 13 November, 2011
19- Matt BORREN (GK)
1- Oswaldo RODRIGUEZ (GK)
2- Nobu ISHI
3- Tristan PRATTLEY*
3- Josh CHETTLEBURGH
5- Matt JOY
4- Jamie O'CONNOR
6- Morgan DAY
6- Matt KENNEDY
7- Regan COLDICOTT
8- Nathan COOKSLEY
8- Seamus RYDER
9- Seule SOROMON
14- Sam MEPHAM
10- Cory CHETTLEBURGH (c)
15- Darren OVERTON
11- Jimmy HAIDAKIS
18- Harley RODEKA
14- Pablo MOYA
21- Michael CUNNINGHAM
15- Stuart LAWRIE
22- Peter EVANS (GK)
17- Jordan MARTENS
23- Joel STEVENS
20- Joachim RANDE
25- Craig FERGUSON
21- Tomas MOSQUERA
27- Tom CONNOR
23- Wade RANDLE
28- Nick HINDSON
25- Jono STEELE