Otago Utd v HB Utd
WINNING IS a fantastic realm of existence but, rightly or wrongly, it brings with it a rash of checks and variables.
Spectators perpetually expect their team to whip oppositions languishing below them on the table.
Anything shy of a victory is quite often open to scrutiny amid suggestions of underachieving unless the rivals are sitting above them.
Even draws will not cut the mustard, casting doubts on a team's playoff chances.
The coach starts treading a fine line, too. Come across too strong and the chances are you will be deemed cocky.
Walk on egg shells and the opposition could use that to boost their morale on their home turf.
Consequently the stance of coach Chris Greatholder is understandable before tomorrow's game in Dunedin, when Otago United host Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United in the ASB Premiership.
Greatholder rightly points out turning up at the covered Forsyth Barr Stadium with the attitude of itching to catch the flight back home with three points in the kit bag won't do it.
"It's not a case of knowing you'll get three points but having the belief that should we perform as good as we can, we should win the game," he says before the midday kick-off. "We can't just turn up and expect to win."
That is not to say the Bill Robertson-captained Bay are settling for anything less than three points.
"I don't want to sound arrogant or blase about it, knowing should we perform the way we know we can we should win the game barring a big upset," he explains.
Bay United sit third on the premiership table on 20 points, retaining their position after a 1-1 draw in Napier against Auckland City, a point above, but should the city slickers lose to Waitakere United this weekend the Bay will go to second place if they win.
Apart from table-topping Waitakere on 28 points, the only other challenge is likely to come from Canterbury United, in fourth place on 18 points after the Dragons thumped the Bay 4-0 in round five at Christchurch on December 2.
Without doubt, anything short of toiling tirelessly tomorrow can make life difficult for the visitors.
Last summer Bay United were scheduled to play Otago at the covered stadium but the game was moved to Tahuna Park.
"It's the first time the boys will have the opportunity to play there, so it should be a nice experience," Greatholder says.
Conor Tinnion and Cole Peverley, who is the only Bay player to make the premiership team of the month, will be serving a match suspension for picking up four cumulative yellow cards.
"We'll rejig things and we might go with a slightly different formation and also have another plan B or plan C, if you like, especially if we're going to get into the playoffs.
"We don't want other teams to see how well we're structured and to keep other people guessing and have a variety of ways in which we play."
While Tinnion and Peverley's omission from the engine room will be sizeable, Greatholder will have Robertson returning after serving a match suspension.
Winger Harley Rodeka, a former Otago United player, has been "brilliant" this summer and English import Stephen Hoyle offers versatility.
"We've got good strength in depth in the midfield this season. We wouldn't have had that last summer or years gone by, where we can call on other members of the squad with complete belief that they'll come in to play well."
His understanding is Otago United have signed through the transfer window only a striker who has represented the southern franchise in previous seasons.
"We're again not too worried to be honest with you and, again, not to sound disrespectful, the more the season goes on the more it becomes about us."
Mindful the Richard Murray-coached Otago counterattack with aplomb, Greatholder and his troops will analyse the hosts' moves on videotape to come up with strategies.
"We'll see who the players are likely to potentially hurt us to try to nullify that and try to target their weaker areas to score goals."
While Dunedin-born Rodeka will give the visitors some insight, Greatholder is equally familiar with Murray's approach.
"I know how they set up, and his philosophy in trying to change the shape - whether it's 4-1-1 or 4-4-2 - we know how they like to attack and defend, so there isn't too much of a guessing game at this stage of the season."
Greatholder is keeping his cards close to his chest after employing a 4-4-2 throughout this summer.
"Our defensive behaviour is second to none and it's a credit to the boys who know exactly what to do when we lose the ball."
He primarily aims to look at becoming more expansive on attack with more numbers than they have been using.
"It's more exciting, I guess, to score more goals, to have more attempts at goal than having more bodies in the box."
Having an eye on the next match and the other on the end of the season is the stance.
Defender Ross Halivand, of Onehunga Sports, played 90 minutes for the Bay youth team last weekend but will have to prove his fitness considering Matt Bruin and Josh Margetts are doing justice to the rightback position.
"Josh was exceptional against Auckland last week and grew into his skin to finish strongly," he says of Margetts, who will start tomorrow.
"Ross needs minutes, so with the youth team in Auckland this weekend he'll stay there to get another 90 minutes under his belt then we'll see how close he is to returning," he says, before the Dion Adams-coached Bay youth side play Waitakere Under-17s.
"Ross also had 15 to 20 minutes against the [Wellington] Phoenix [A] and he was blowing, so it gave him a bit of a wake-up call that he wasn't quite ready yet."
Greatholder says with Bay United one of the top sides in the premiership, players can't expect to roll into the equation when they return, considering others are working hard.
Defender Danny Wilson is in England for his wedding but is expected to re-join the squad in the first leg of playoffs if the Bay make the historic cut.
WHO: Otago United v Hawke's Bay United.
WHERE: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin.
WHEN: Tomorrow, 12pm kick off.
Referee: Mirko Benischke.
Head to head: Played 21, Otago 5 wins, HB 12 wins, 4 draws.
Previous: R4 _ HB Utd 2 Otago 0.
OTAGO UTD form: W-L-W-L-L.
The players: Morgan Day returns while Scott Gannon is suspended. Joel Stevens remains out of action with a dislocated shoulder.
The vital statistics: Regan Coldicott remains Otago's biggest goal threat with five strikes for the season. Otago's last win was a 4-1 victory over YoungHeart Manawatu in Palmerston North in round 9.
Squad list: 1- Liam Little (GK), 4-Ben Fitzpatrick, 5- Matt Joy, 7-Regan Coldicott, 8-Seamus Ryder, - Victor da Costa, 10- Ant Hancock,11- James Govan, 14- Sam Mepham, 15- Tom Connor, 16-Aajay Cunningham, 17- Tim Horner (c), 19- Donnie MacGregor, 20-Andy Ridden, 21- Aaron Burgess, 22- Zayne Officer, 23- Morgan Day, 28- Craig Ferguson.
Coach: Richard Murray.
HAWKE'S BAY UTD form: L-W-W-W-D.
The players: Cole Peverley and Conor Tinnion miss out on the trip to the south after picking up a cumulative four yellow cards following last round while skipper Bill Robertson returns from suspension for a similar situation. Striker Sean Lovemore will start after he was cleared of a suspected apendicitis.
The vital statistics: Hawke's Bay United can leapfrog Auckland City _ provided the navy blues slip up against arch rivals Waitakere United in the top-of-the-table clash and Bay win. The Bay have won three and drawn one of their last five games, scored 13 and conceded just two.
Squad list: 1- Richard Gillespie (GK), 2- Aaron Jones, 3- Josh Margetts, 5- Bill Robertson (c), 6- Stephen Hindmarch, 9- Jarrod Smith, 10- Stephen Hoyle, 12- Harley Rodeka, 16- Sean Lovemore, 17- Fergus Neil, 18-
Dakota Lucas, 19- Rudi Bauerfiend, 21- Matt Bruin, 22- Angus Kilkolly, 26- Danyon Drake (GK).
Coach: Chris Greatholder. Assistant coach: Perry Cotton.
_ premiership data