Soccer: Payne, Myers to make starting debuts

By Michael Brown

Tim Payne will make his starting debut for the All Whites today against the Solomon Islands. Photo / Greg Bowker.
Tim Payne will make his starting debut for the All Whites today against the Solomon Islands. Photo / Greg Bowker.

With a semifinal spot already secured, All Whites coach Ricki Herbert has rung the changes for their final group game at the Oceania Nations Cup against the Solomon Islands today.

Shane Smeltz, Ivan Vicelich, Michael McGlinchey, Chris Killen and Ben Sigmund won't even suit up, while Mark Paston is injured and Tony Lockhead suspended.

That opens the door for 18 year-old Tim Payne and 21 year-old Tim Myers to make starting debuts in a side that features eight U-23 players who could all be involved at the London Olympics.

New Zealand have two wins from two games and, although they have been unconvincing, Herbert sees little need in pushing the players any more given the oppressive heat and quick turnaround of five games in nine days.

It throws up the possibility of defeat, especially against a good opponent like the Solomon Islands who will need at least a draw to confirm their passage to the final four.

But Herbert is unconcerned if they finish first or second in their group because both Tahiti and New Caledonia, who will go through from Group A, will be tricky opponents for different reasons - Tahiti are big and physical and New Caledonia fast and skilful.

"One way or the other, we are in the semis whether we top the group or come second. I'm not sure there's a massive difference between New Caledonia or Tahiti.''

Left back Tony Lochhead, who was farcically shown two yellow cards against PNG but not dismissed, will be available for that match but it's doubtful whether goalkeeper Mark Paston will return.

He's still struggling after being concussed in the opening match against Fiji and no risks will be taken. Glen Moss is nearing full fitness and could come into considerations for Friday's semifinal.

Today's game is a vital one for the Solomon Islands, who are under considerable pressure from an expectant home crowd to progress to the final four. They will know what they will need to do by the time the game kicks off - Fiji play PNG in the early game - but a draw will be enough regardless.

Solomon Islands captain Henry Fa'arodo is well aware of the pressures his side are under and is doing his best to avoid it.

"The pressure is there, that's for sure, but that's the thing about the game,'' said Fa'arodo, who played for Team Wellington in the recent ASB Premiership final. "You have to handle it.

"I try to keep in my zone, my space. It works for me. I just hope the young boys try to do that as well.

"It's a different thing when you come here [to the Solomons]. Everyone is like a coach here and they're not happy when things don't go their way. It's normal. I listen to people but take in what I need to.

"We are confident we can beat New Zealand. It's up to who wants it the most.''

The Bonitos have played some thrilling attacking football at the Oceania Nations Cup but have scored only one goal in the tournament. It's a problem for a lot of the island sides and they missed some gilt-edged chances in their 0-0 draw with Fiji yesterday.

Incredibly, there were 36 shots in that match but only eight on goal and some looked easier to score than miss.

That's where New Zealand have an edge, but Herbert will leave it to his second XI to do it tomorrow.

New Zealand side to play the Solomon Islands at Lawson Tama Stadium, Honiara, today (4pm NZT): (4-4-2) Jake Gleeson; Tim Myers, Michael Boxall, Tommy Smith (c), Ian Hogg; Leo Bertos, Aaron Clapham, Tim Payne, Marco Rojas; Chris Wood, Rory Fallon.

Bench: Glen Moss, Jeremy Brockie, Cameron Howieson, Kosta Barbarouses, Adam McGeorge.

- APNZ

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