Dead rubber to offer bounce

By ANENDRA SINGH sports editor

The carefree tone underlying Matt Calcott's voice comes unmistakeably from a coach who knows he's going into a game with little to lose.

That is not to say the Team Wellington coach is treating tomorrow's dead rubber in the capital city against Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United in the ASB Premiership with disdain.

When the game kicks off for the premiership semifinal qualifiers at 1pm in Newtown Park, Calcott will in fact be looking forward to carrying on that momentum into the semifinal against table-topping Auckland City.

"In our last three games, against Manawatu, Waikato and Otago, we've scored six goals in each match to win," he says.

But he is still mindful that playing lower-tier teams isn't ideal preparation going into a match against Auckland City.

Building confidence is one thing but walloping geeks, akin to back-field school bullies, isn't an ideal yardstick for measuring confidence.

"That's going to happen but we'll get a tough last game from Hawke's Bay.

"The last thing you want going into a semifinal is not having self-awareness on when you're at," says the man who won the national winter knockout Chatham Cup title with Miramar Rangers in 2010 only to come up to Park Island, Napier, to lose their next match 5-0 to Bluewater Napier City Rovers.

Eleven years in the coaching game does that to you even though the coach has five Central League (winter) and two Chatham Cup titles to his credit.

"Funnier things have happened so that's why we play the game."

Calcott's belief in the Bill Robertson-captained Bay United stems from the understanding that rookie coach Chris Greatholder has whipped the visitors into a respectable unit, after Team Wellington thumped them 6-2 at Bluewater Stadium on January 15

"Hawke's Bay's not that far away and Chris has done a great job since," Calcott says, adding Greatholder's predecessors have travelled south and "done very well".

"We have to put a stop to that," he says, comfortable his troops have "matured internally" to not fall into the trap of complacency.

In the bigger scheme, taking that winning feeling to Auckland to upset the favourites the following weekend will put Team Wellington into the equation of trying to secure a second berth in the O-League.

A victory will mean the second-placed Canterbury United will be the second qualifiers with Auckland to the competition involving other top clubs from Fiji, Vanuatu, Tahiti and Papua New Guinea to earn the right to proceed to the lucrative club World Championship.

The pain of conceding three goals in the last 20 minutes still rankles with the Bay, something Greatholder attributes to weeks of breaks before matches.

"We'll make amends. We've won six of our last nine matches so we'll want to carry that through."

Nevertheless, the Napier bank manager is resigned to taking a depleted team after a rash of injuries several players have picked up in three friendly matches.

"Wellington have stayed together and done the right things.

"Five to six of our boys have to travel from outside so we gave them a bit of grace," he says of the players such as Hamish Watson (Wellington), and Adam Cowan and Dale Higham (both Palmerston North).

Admittedly it isn't the strongest side but Greatholder believes he has enough firepower to give Calcott's team a decent run around.

The squad of 12 includes veteran Chris McIvor, who is also an assistant coach, and youngsters Luke Chapman and Rudi Bauerfiend although the latter remains subject to a medical clearance.

English import midfield lynchpin Conor Tinnion has a cruciate ligament knee injury while veteran Matt Hastings is nursing a torn hamstring, to name a few of the team's walking wounded.

"We'll just have to roll with the punches," Greatholder says of the Bay who have yet to secure a play-off berth in the eight-season history of the premiership.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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