HB Utd v Auckland City
Park Island, Napier
UNLESS YOU have weddings or funerals to attend there's no reason why you wouldn't be jostling to snake your way through the turnstiles of the Bluewater Stadium tomorrow, especially if you are the type who goes around calling yourself a lover of the beautiful game.
The lawns can wait, and clean the car's spark plugs two hours later because the match between Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United and Auckland City at Park Island, Napier, from 2pm is what soccer is all about.
It is a defining moment for both teams in the ASB Premiership although, not surprisingly, the bookmakers have the Ramon Tribulietx-coached city slickers as the blokes who will exchange manly hugs when referee John Rowbury blows the final whistle.
Nevertheless, some Bay United spectators, believe this could be the turning point for the Chris Greatholder-coached troops to show they aren't daunted when they look across the paddock at the metropolitan city powerhouse teams.
Even though the Bay have only slapped each other on the back twice in 21 clashes against Auckland City, they did deny the second-placed team on the premiership table three points with a 1-1 stalemate at Kiwtea St on November 18.
Besides, there's only one point separating the two sides with the goals for/against just favouring the Aucklanders, who have a a game in hand after nine rounds and no losses yet.
Bay United captain Bill Robertson will be conspicuous by his absence at centreback and, arguably, the player who will feel the pressure most, albeit from the grandstand after collecting his fourth yellow card in the 5-1 drubbing of YoungHeart Manawatu last weekend.
The dress rehearsal on Wednesday night against Wellington Phoenix A here would have provided Greatholder some insight, with midfielders Cole Pevereley and Stephen Hindmarch injected at centreback.
How the centreback will soak up the City pressure to allow goalkeeper Richard Gillespie some elbow space is crucial but equally vital is the engine room, which will determine where the game will be played for the most part of 90-plus minutes.
Stacking a physical Peverley or Hindmarch will mean someone will have to muscle up with the midfielder who doesn't fall back.
English import Stephen Hoyle has been put through the litmus test considering the Bay are spoilt for strikers in golden-boot contender Sean Lovemore, Jarrod Smith and Dakota Lucas.
Midfielder Conor Tinnion is a possibility but he has a tendency to forage up more than sit back to occupy middle earth. Whether Greatholder asks him to adopt a different mindset remains to be seen because Auckland's midfield is not one to be sneezed at in Manel Exposito, Pedro Santa Cecilia Garcia and Emiliano Tade.
Greatholder is keeping a low profile but Tribulietx laughed when asked if he was aware of the TAB odds.
"I don't follow those sorts of things because we prepare the same way we do for all other games regardless of what people say," the Spaniard says.
Tribulietx said he believed Greatholder was showing incremental improvements since the second half of last summer, not long after he took over the team from Matt Chandler.
"He's brought good players who are quick and if they are given space they can hurt you, so we're expecting tough opposition."
However, Tribulietx hastens to add Auckland have their own weapons, whom he will deploy in keeping with the philosophy of keeping the ball at their feet to control the proceedings on the park.
He's mindful of the Bay's ability to catch them on the hop with counter-attacks. Auckland's technical midfield will rise to that occasion.
Funnily enough, two Auckland players, Chris Bale and Daniel Koprivcic, have a good reason not to be at the game.
Bale is getting married tomorrow and Koprivcic has jetted off to Australia for a mate's nuptials.
Angel Berlanga, according to the premiership website, is bracketed for the pair but what Tribulietx says puts a question mark on that, too.
Berlanga is in India to negotiate a contract to play in their league, so the coach fears Auckland may lose him.
Incidentally, Bay striker-cum-defender Danny Wilson and his immediate family members will be excused as well from tomorrow's giant clash because he's jetted off to England to say "I do" to his fiancee, Lauren.
WHO: Hawke's Bay United v Auckland City.
WHERE: Bluewater Stadium, Napier.
WHEN: Tomorrow, 2pm kick off.
Referee: John Rowbury.
Head to head: Played 21, HB Utd 2 wins, Auckland 15 wins, 4 draws.
Previous, round 3: Auckland 1 HB Utd 1.
HAWKE'S BAY UNITED form: L-W-W-L-L.
The players: Bill Robertson is suspended so Rudi Bauerfiend gets
a call-up for the Bay.
The vital statistics: HB Utd are on a three-match winning streak --
victory over Auckland City would create a competition record of four consecutive wins for the hosts. Last week's 5-1 thrashing of YoungHeart Manawatu is only the third time the Bay have hit five goals in a match -- the previous was a 5-0 win over the YoungHearts in 2011-12 and a 5-2 win over Team Wellington in 2008-09.
Squad list (from): 1- Richard Gillespie (GK), 2- Aaron Jones, 3-Josh Margetts, 6- Stephen Hindmarch, 8- Cole Peverley, 9-Jarrod Smith, 10- Stephen Hoyle, 12- Harley Rodeka, 16- Sean Lovemore, 17- Fergus Neil, 18- Dakota Lucas, 19- Rudi Bauerfiend, 20- Conor Tinnion, 21- Matt Bruin, 22- Angus Kilkolly, 26- Danyon Drake (GK).
Coach: Chris Greatholder. Assistant coach: Perry Cotton.
AUCKLAND CITY form: D-W-W-W-W
The players: Jacob Spoonley, Riki van Steeden and Dean Lausev are drafted into the squad. Angel Berlanga is bracketed for this match while Chris Bale and Daniel Koprivcic are unavailable. Damie Hirst returns to the City academy.
The vital statistics: Auckland are undefeated in their last nine matches against HB Utd. Their last defeat to the hosts was a 2-0 reverse at Bluewater Stadium in 2008-09 season.
Squad list: 1- Jacob Spoonley (GK), 2- Simon Arms, 3- Takuya Iwata, 4- Riki van Steeden, 5- Angel Berlanga, 9- Manel Exposito, 12- Tamati Williams (GK), 13- Alex Feneridis, 14- Adam Dickinson, 15- Ivan Vicelich (c), 16- Albert Riera Vidal, 17- Pedro Santa Cecilia Garcia, 19- Dan Saric, 20- Emiliano Tade, 21- David Browne, 22- Andrew Milne, 25- Dean Lausev.
Coach: Ramon Tribulietx.
-- Premiership data