Soccer: Marist keeping eyes on the prize

Palmerston North Marist have shaken off the spectre of uncertainty hanging over their fourth round Chatham Cup fixture. Photo / File.
Palmerston North Marist have shaken off the spectre of uncertainty hanging over their fourth round Chatham Cup fixture. Photo / File.

Palmerston North Marist have shaken off the spectre of uncertainty hanging over their fourth round Chatham Cup fixture and are fully focused on extending their run in the 90-year-old competition.

Marist were drawn to play Wairarapa United, who have since been disqualified for fielding an ineligible player in their third round win over Napier City Rovers, with Rovers now making the trip to Palmerston North's Skoglund Park for Saturday's match.

Wairarapa have indicated they plan to appeal their disqualification.

On the line is a place in Monday's draw for the quarter-finals in late July, the first national stage of the competition, but Marist coach Simon Lees said the end goal had kept his side focused despite the potential for disruption.

"The distraction was a genuine concern for us and naturally we would have preferred not to have the drama around Wairarapa and been able to plan sooner,'' said Lees.

"But we have managed to put that to one side, we've prepared extremely well and we know that if we play to our ability we're good enough to beat anyone.''

Four time winners Napier - the most decorated club left in the last 16 - are the toughest test yet for Marist in a campaign that has increased gradually in degrees of difficulty beginning with Taradale and Naenae before a third round upset over Central League's Tawa.

Marist sit six points clear at the top of the Central Federation league, one division below the Central League, but have a healthy sprinkling of ASB Premiership experience throughout their squad including former YoungHeart Manawatu striker Tom Mosquera who has netted 13 goals in 11 games - six of those in Marist's three Chatham Cup outings.

The halcyon days of a Chatham Cup semifinal in 2004 and a painful 2005 final defeat are a proud memory for what Lees described ``as a small club in the scheme of things'' and he said it was only recently that Cup fever had noticeably taken hold again.

``Players had half-joked about `the magic of the cup' but it has now become a bit of a catch-cry for them,'' he said.

``This year the Chatham Cup has drawn a lot of attention and I know myself I was glued to the Twitter feed when Island bay and Olympic went to penalties. I've been involved in the committee for a long time and I haven't really heard the buzz around the club since those 2004 and 2005 seasons.''

Meanwhile, the remaining third round replay between Nelson College and Waimak United at Saxton Fields will have a special flavour to it played in front of the coveted Chatham Cup trophy.

Back to fourth round action, all three Waikato teams left in the hat face trips to Auckland on Saturday with Melville away to two-time winners Manurewa, Hamilton Wanderers playing Birkenhead United on the North Shore and Ngaruawahia United taking on Onehunga Sports.

Also on Saturday afternoon, Roslyn Wakari's derby against Caversham in Dunedin is a tantalising battle of the top two teams in Football South's Premier League while a late kickoff in Wellington sees 2011 winners Olympic meet last year's runners up Lower Hutt under lights at Wakefield Park.

Waitakere City meet Bay Olympic in an all Northern Premier League clash on Sunday afternoon with the fourth round completed when Cashmere Technical face the winner of Nelson College and Waimak United next week.

- APNZ

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