Enemy awaits at home

By ANENDRA SINGH - Sports Editor

No one knows the feeling better than the lads from Waikato.

Ask Alex Barlow, Matt Hastings and brothers Sam and Josh Margetts and they will attest to what it's like to go back to their home turf on a losing note as the Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United players.

It's a bit like finding oneself in a long queue at a supermarket aisle.

Look across, a shorter queue beckons and human nature wins.

But a few minutes after you get there, the checkout operator runs out of paper in the cash register and the other queue has moved on.

Barlow, sporting a wry smile, finds traction with the analogy after having played for Melville United under Waikato United coach Declan Edge.

"Most of their young boys are from there [Melville]," the 20-year-old leftback says of the Waikato franchise side that has inherited the young ex-international striker Edge coaches.

Barlow, who made his ASB Premiership debut for the Bay in the inaugural 2008-09 season, was Waikato United vice-captain before breaking his right leg last summer at the annual under-19 national tourney in Napier.

He returned to play here this summer after former Bay coach Matt Chandler approached him pre-season.

"It was a fresh start and I thought why not because my leg was healed and it was professional environment here so I'll give it a decent go.

"There were a lot of ups and downs over there [Waikato]. Who's the coach and that sort of thing," Barlow says, adding 2010-11 coach Dave Edmondson had also left to coach an Adelaide women's team and no one was confirmed at that stage.

All that, of course, makes it harder to digest the pain of losing 2-0 to a youthful Waikato in the White Ribbon Cup match (an inaugural knockout phase within the premiership while high-flyers Auckland City and Waitakere City compete in the O-League) at Taupo a fortnight ago.

"The most annoying part is that I'm mates with them so there was a bit of banter and they gave me some stick on email and phone," Barlow says before the 2pm kickoff at Porritt Stadium, in Hamilton, against a resurgent side that followed up their cup victory to clinch their first premiership win, 3-1, against bottom dwellers YoungHeart Manawatu last weekend in Palmerston North.

"Waikato were getting some stick for losing but we didn't expect it to happen to us," he says of Waikato, who under Edge have put aside the pressures of losing to simply play a passing game in the mould of Barcelona.

Barlow says with Chandler's sudden departure the Bay squad were a little ruffled but a thread of trust to watch each other's backs saw them build a cable-strength like atmosphere under stand-in coach Chris Greatholder and skipper Bill Robertson.

"It's a bit different for Adam Cowan, who is from Wairarapa, or Bill Robertson, who comes from Canterbury, because I've moved from Waikato so I want to beat them on Sunday," says the player who flats with Hastings.

Having a fiery Robertson alongside him boosts the confidence of young defenders such as Barlow.

"Chrissy's good, too, because he has played with us and knows the coaching side of things," he says of the unqualified coach who the Bay franchise board got a dispensation for the interim from New Zealand Football.

Sam Margetts, of Waikato but who came here from Auckland club 3Kings because of varsity studies, echoed Barlow's sentiments about Waikato's instability in appointing coaches for moving to the Bay.

The striker/attacking midfielder knew Chandler who was Waikato junior co-ordinator when Margetts was a teenager.

"He promised me game time so it seemed like a good option," says the 21-year-old.

Margetts respects Edge's commitment to bring the young brigade through in Waikato and believes it will pay dividends.

"The previous summer they've had so many Aucklanders."

He doesn't think the Bay is in a crisis mode just yet and, if anything, took a few home truths from the cup defeat.

"We definitely got our shape a little wrong and just the way we were pressing we allowed them to run around too much," he explains when asked to elaborate.

He feels complacency may have set in after a 4-0 pre-season win.

"The loss is a blessing in disguise."

Margetts believes Greatholder's injection is vital with most players of the view "he's not just some random guy coming in".

The former Hamilton Boys' High boarder, who played for Hamilton Wanderers and Ngaruawahia before earning a football scholarship to the United States, says the Bay are calibre players and they have shown it in the 2-0 win against the Canterbury United at home.

Hastings, 25, reveals he has been practising to strike in the past few weeks.

"I love it. I guess you always want to go up front," he says, adding he was a forward until he was 12 when his coach put him to sweep to protect a dodgy knee.

"I spent 22 years of my life there so I'll see many old faces.

"They'll say anything to get under your skin but after the game they'll come and shake your hands and wish you all the best," says Hastings whose father, Grant Hastings, coached there for years and his uncle, Craig, and paternal grandmother are still involved with Manurewa club in the Northern League.

Matt Hastings started playing in the men's league at the age of 14.

"If you make a mistake you're told about it," he says after a few Bay players reprimanded others for their shoddy effort in Taupo.

However, he emphasises everyone made mistakes and no one can point a finger at each other, old or young.

Tackling, trusting each other and keeping the ball, Hastings believes, will be their secret as underdogs on Sunday.

It isn't ideal that just Robertson or goalkeeper Shaun Peta should do all the talking.

"Everyone's a leader in the park.

"If I make a mistake I expect even someone like Reilly [O'Meagher] to let me know."

Hastings, who often conversed with Greatholder at a matey level, confesses he finds he has to remind himself when he walks into the clubrooms theses days that Greatholder is more than just a mate nowadays.

Josh Margetts is based in Palmerston North.


Who: Waikato FC v Hawke's Bay United.

Where: Porritt Stadium, Hamilton.

When: Sunday, 2pm.

Referee: Jamie Cross.

Head to head: Played 18 - Waikato 8 wins, HB 5 wins, 5 draws.

Waikato: Form - LLLLW.

The players: Midfielder Michael Mayne returns as an experienced head. So does Ray How. Matt Williams (nose), Dave Samson (groin) and goalkeeper Max Tommy (foot) are injured.

The vital statistics: Waikato have won their previous three home encounters with HB United - 4-2, 1-0 and 2-0 suggest the Declan Edge-coached side start Sunday's game as favourites.

Squad list: 1- Mark Fulcher (GK), 2- Tyler Lissette, 3- Jesse Smith, 4- Mohammed Awad, 6- Mike Kramer, 7- Jason Hicks, 8- Matteo Ballan, 9- Michael Mayne, 10- Adam Thomas (c), 14- Josh Greene, 15- Jesse Edge, 16- Ray How, 19- Harry Edge, 21- Tyler Boyd, 24- Ryan Thomas - one to be omitted.

Coach: Declan Edge.

Hawke's Bay United: Form - LDWL.

The players: New signing Dale Higham joins the squad with Adam Chandler departing for Australia with his father and former coach, Matt Chandler. Stephen Hindmarsh (groin tear) and Richard Gillespie (medial ligaments) are still injured.

The vital statistics: The Bay have only one win from their previous five matches against Waikato, a statistic that includes a recent 2-0 defeat in the White Ribbon Cup. The Bay's last win away over Waikato was 1-0 win in 2009 when Seule Soromon scored.

Squad list: 26- Shaun Peta (GK), 2- Fergus Neil, 3- Alex Barlow, 5- Bill Robertson (c), 7- Matt Hastings, 8- Adam Cowan, 10- Sam Margetts, 11- Conor Tinnion, 12- Dale Higham, 13- Luke Chapman, 14- Danny Wilson, 15- Rudi Bauerfiend, 16- Reilley O'Meagher, 18- Hamish Watson, 19- Chris McIvor, 21- Josh Margetts, 30- Matt Gould (GK).

Coach: Chris Greatholder.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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