Chris Greatholder brings his Hawkes Bay United team to Fred Taylor Park this afternoon all too aware that Waitakere United have seemingly saved their best for games between the two clubs this season.
After beating the Bay 3-1 early in December, Waitakere followed that with a 3-0 win in Napier in the penultimate round of the ASB Premiership's regular season - a victory coach Paul Marshall tagged as "our best of the season". The minor premiers returned to Fred Taylor Park a week later and slumped to their worst effort, and only loss, against Canterbury United.
That provided the spark for last Sunday's 4-1 win in the semifinal first leg and Marshall's claim that that win was even better than the one scored two weeks earlier at Bluewater Stadium.
"The loss to Canterbury was a wake-up call for sure," said Marshall. "It was a bit of a hiccup but we turned that around and went out and played what I would call our normal game in beating Hawkes Bay on Sunday."
It was no coincidence that the win in Napier was spearheaded by Roy Krishna who returned from an enforced injury break to score twice and show his golden boot triumph was no fluke.
While Marshall has a full squad to select from, Greatholder has been hit hard in losing his greatest attacking weapons with Sean Lovemore and Jarrod Smith gone for the season - and probably a lot longer.
A 3-0 win will not be enough to get the visitors back into the contest but Marshall has no intention of playing for a draw or even a low-scoring loss.
"We need to play as well as we have all season," said Marshall. "Both on attack and defensively."
Canterbury coach Keith Braithwaite is under no illusions when contemplating the task ahead against Auckland City but takes confidence from the first leg where the Dragons went down 2-1.
"If we play as well as we did on Sunday and have a bit of luck I'm sure we can make a decent go of it," said Braithwaite. "We just have to put away our chances. Their keeper made a couple of excellent saves and we hit the post so we were not without a chance. They had two clear chances and took them both."
If Canterbury lead 2-1 after 90 minutes, extra time will be played. A 1-0 Canterbury win would put City through as would any draw or home team win. A 2-0 - or bigger - Canterbury win would be enough for them to win through.By Terry Maddaford Email Terry