The football faithful are asking Hawke's Bay United if they are paying the price of a porous defence for sacking Bill Robertson this summer.

The Thirsty Whale-sponsored franchise team have conceded a whopping 50 goals this summer with two rounds to play as they face Southern United in an 11am kick off at Sunnyvale, Dunedin, tomorrow.

"Does not [50] goals against us — the highest negative total in the league — tell someone at Hawke's Bay United that not including Bill Robertson in our defensive line could possibly be a mistake," says reader Graham Jonson of last season's captain Robertson who found a lifeline with Waitakere United but didn't play for them from just before Christmas after breaking his arm.

"The coach (who I presume did not include Bill in the line up) may not like him but better teams and coaches have seen the benefit of having him in their team," says Jonson, of Napier, among other fans' concern amid emails, texts and phone calls.

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Team Wellington signed the 33-year-old two-time ISPS Handa Premiership-winning captain from Napier last month to help them through their O-League campaign in Vanuatu where they booked a quarter-final berth against Henderson FC (Solomon Islands) in a 2pm kick off at David Farrington Park, Wellington, on Sunday, April 7.

Responding to those who are questioning the merit of losing the services of Robertson, Angell says it has nothing to do with the centre back but more to do with losing three defenders in Joe Zupo, Anders Eriksson and Dan Allan halfway through the national summer league season.

"We lost all those players within a two to three-week period over Christmas," he says.

Allan left here to play for Lautoka club in Fiji while Zupo and Eriksson returned to their home countries of Canada and Sweden, respectively.

Restructuring without the trio, says Angell, saw them identify potential solutions that have failed. Add to that the two goalkeepers, Mack Waite and Alexander Britton (among others), coming up short means "it's been a constant battle".

He feels some of the players improvising as defenders are young, inexperienced and/or lacking the consistency of playing game after game.

"We've never found the right formula," he says, alluding to the 2-all stalemate against lowly Tasman United who didn't put them under as much duress as they did on them.

What'll have the Southerners salivating tomorrow is the prospect of playing against a side who can't stop a draft under the door in autumn and now have lost the services of golden-boot contender Sam Mason-Smith, after the striker jetted off to Melbourne, Australia, to ply his trade for the Preston Lions in the second-tier State League One this week.

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The 27-year-old English striker remedied last summer's goal-drought issue with 16 for a team season tally of 35.

"It's very difficult because you can't just go find three players [defenders] around the corner who have not played national league for the last three months," says Angell who hasn't been able to keep a decent core of mature players, especially in the past two summers.

He laments the 7-2 loss to Hamilton Wanderers a fortnight ago where every time Bay United scored they "immediately" conceded goals.

"It becomes a double-edged sword ... I've tried different people, different formations, different permutations but the end outcome is whoever we've utilised has been, unfortunately, conceded goals from, where I feel, the oppositions haven't earned the goals."

Waitkere had four shots on target last Sunday and scored twice but Bay United had 24 shots, eight on target and also got two, he says.

Angell says he started with a blank sheet to fill voids in positions so when a fifth of the squad leave within a fortnight, especially around one positional area, then it's crippling.

"Because we're never going to be a club that is big enough to carry two sets of teams ... like bigger clubs with national league experience."

Bill Robertson played for Waitakere United until before Christmas but missed the rest of their campaign after breaking his arm this national league summer. Photo/Photosport
Bill Robertson played for Waitakere United until before Christmas but missed the rest of their campaign after breaking his arm this national league summer. Photo/Photosport

Angell says Robertson played for Waitakere United, who are sitting in eight place and one rung below Bay United on account of three fewer draws, so Team Wellington picked up his services only because they lost players to other professional clubs.

Asked if he would pick him next season, the English coach says his focus is on Sunday and the last round match against the Wellington Phoenix Reserves the following Sunday in Porirua.

"Bill's played for a national league team ... and that team also has conceded goals but, like wise, it's not to say that I was right or wrong in not having [Robertson] available."

For the record, Waitakere have conceded 37 goals.

Angell argues it's his inability to fill the three defenders' void is what saw the goals-against tally balloon rather than the absence of Robertson .

He concedes Southern United will see Bay United as a side good only for two goals.

The hosts will be "organised, strong, aggressive, well played" so, physically, the visitors will have to match that for a result.

Angell likes to think Bay United aren't just a one-man player in Mason-Smith, who he sees as a provider of the ball and someone who was an integral part of the cohesiveness at the coal face.

"I think we've got the ability, if we play in the right manner, to score goals whoever that may be in filling those voids."

He sees former Phoenix A-League linchpin Paul Ifill assuming the mantle of striker provided he's fit.

"He'll be fitter for going through last weekend's game ... and I'm sure of his intentions of finishing the game as well as he can."

Injured captain Birhanu Taye will undergo a fitness test but newbie James Marsh is out.