HB Utd v Waitakere Utd
1st home semifinal
Park Island, Napier
BY ALL means sport a poker face and play your cards close to your chest but there's no bluffing now.
Although it's the home-and-away phase of the ASB Premiership soccer semifinals, all that matters is winning.
No more cat-and-mouse affairs.
The more goals put away in the net the better the aggregate for the visiting team if stalemates prevail but, all those permutations aside, the motivation should be straightforward - simply win.
No doubt coach Chris Greatholder and his assistant, Perry Cotton, have toyed with the line up of Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United, comfortable in the knowledge they had qualified for a play-off berth weeks before.
"I think we quite enjoyed getting under the radar for the past few weeks," Greatholder says before his third-placed troops' 2pm kick-off at Park Island, Napier, tomorrow against minor premiership champions Waitakere United.
In the past few rounds, it's fair to say Bay United have caught fans by surprise.
"Some of them have been writing us off so we like that, too," Greatholder says, after losing 3-0 to Waitakere here and a 4-2 loss to Team Wellington last Sunday.
"It suits us to be underdogs again."
With the round-robin play over, captain Bill Robertson and bolshy midfielder Conor Tinnion have wiped their yellow-card slate clean.
Injured striker Jarrod Smith returns for what Greatholder believes will be his best XI this summer.
Canterbury United, the third-placed qualifiers, burst Waitakere's bubble last weekend with a 3-2 win to show anything can happen.
Greatholder never doubted for a second Waitakere were beatable.
If anything, he's disappointed the Dragons, who host Auckland City tomorrow, stole their thunder.
"We've done a lot of homework on them so we'll target them," he says, adding the coaching staff and squad know what is required of them.
Greatholder has his XI but will not reveal it until just before kick-off, although he accepts he doesn't have the depth on the bench that Waitakere have nor has he had the luxury to expose his fringe players much.
The return of golden boot striker and Fijian international Roy Krishna will be a test in itself but Ryan de Vries has become a class act in his own right for the O-League campaigners.
Bay United "won't die wondering" tomorrow.
"I believe in the boys [to get the job done]. I probably have more belief in them than they have in themselves," Greatholder says.
Breaking their shackles on the foundation of fearlessness is the order.
"We're hoping to grant players some freedom to express themselves to be creative and not just worrying about defensive duties."
In reality, Bay United haven't arguably put in a complete performance this summer.
If spectators have turned up at Bluewater Stadium expecting the Magpies to swoop in on the likes of Waitakere and Auckland City then they have left somewhat disillusioned with tentative performances.
Greatholder believes a no-holds-barred performance is long overdue.
The agony of missing out on the 2010-11 play-offs, thinking they were home and hosed until Canterbury pipped Auckland City 1-0 to deny them, was always stored on the bottom shelf even though it was seldom ever brought up in meetings and trainings.
Greatholder was a player then under Matt Chandler's tutelage.
For anyone in danger of forgetting, the franchise has video footage of players slumping at training in Park Island as ex-Bay United coach Jonathan Gould's voice breaking the bad news live on a radio commentary a few minutes before fulltime.
That story and images will become part of the folklore of soccer in the franchise's history.
For someone who has had to keep his jangled nerves on a leash before kick-offs, Greatholder feels more relaxed nowadays and puts it down to experience.
He's embracing what he preaches to his men.
That is, be fearless.