LOSE and eat humble pie but remain in the playoffs then chances are summer football coaches, captains and players will feign disinterest.

Pressure? What pressure? It's just another game in the ASB Premiership, really, because they've had to deal with "pressure from day one" so why should it be any different now?

But when Hawke's Bay United face Team Wellington in a 3pm kick-off at David Farrington Park in the capital tomorrow, it'll be anything but "just another game", before they host Waitakere United the following Sunday at Park Island, Napier.

Bay United coach Brett Angell says: "It's the last two games of the season so we'd like to take six points. If we do then we'll have a better opportunity to finish second.


"But we're not looking any further forward [than Team Wellington], that's our next game."

Echoes his disciple, Sean Liddicoat: "It's just another game so we'll have to play to the best of our ability to win."

In keeping with the team mantra, the Bay United defender is guilty of pushing the ball back to his goalkeeper in the face of boos and jeers from fans but he and Angell's ruse is understandable.

It smacks of pre-match psychobabble but take a step back and you tend to appreciate why it pays to talk the game down.

Diluting the significance of a game can help soothe jangled nerves against a team they have drawn 2-2 against at home on January 10.

They sit on 24 points each on the premiership table but Matt Calcott's men boast a marginally superior goal difference to claim the second rung below top qualifiers Auckland City.

However, both teams will watch the outcome of last Sunday's postponed match between table-topping Auckland City and Canterbury United in Christchurch on Wednesday next week.

If the Dragons prevail then they will be runners-up but the 4-1 trouncing on November 29 at the hands of City suggests that is unlikely although the Blues won't lose sleep over a loss.

In a nutshell, if Bay United captain Adam Milne leads his troops to victory they will leapfrog Team Wellington to buy an insurance policy to avoid a semifinal clash with City.

More significantly the visitors will be in the driving seat to displace Team Wellington in the O-League arena, after making the grand final against City last summer but failing to progress to the higher echelons.

Throwing the monkey off the backs to beat Waitakere United the following Sunday is another story, after Bay United succumbed 2-1 to them at QBE Stadium, Auckland, on December 17.

Needless to say, the time to shoot the breeze will be over for tomorrow's losers at David Farrington Park.

The shoulders will drop and never mind what the spin, coaches and captains will face a monumental task of trying to lift the spirit of their players to sleepwalk their way through what will be a meaningless playoff.

That Team Wellington co-captain Bill Robertson, of Napier, was at Park Island to watch Bay United perform a Houdini act in the last five minutes of regulation time to escape with a 2-0 win over WaiBOP United in itself speaks volumes.

"It was a close game but it opened up in the second half so I guess Hawke's Bay deserved to win it," says Robertson, adding there'll be no excuses for his fit and healthy side.

"It'll be a good game for both supporters and a chance for two teams who've played well over two seasons to showcase the summer."

Defender Fergus Neill, midfielder Andy Bevin and English import Saul Halpin are other Team Wellington players with Bay connections.

The hosts also boast striker Ben Harris, who has scored 13 goals to lead the golden boot race.

Robertson says the Englishman, who was recruited from Nelson over winter, had proven his worth as it's no mean feat to find the net that many times at national league level.

The centreback says Bay United player/assistant coach Paul Ifill's quality and experience was obvious last Sunday so he'll "add some value".

"Hawke's Bay have a number of good players so Paul will be one of 11 who we'll have to keep an eye on so it should be a good test for us."

Ifill and midfielder Zane Sole's testosterone explosion after last Sunday's match is indicative of what this season's objectives are in an environment that isn't about seeking shelter under the skirt of development but simply winning.

Sole was conspicuous in his absence from tomorrow's lineup but the franchise gave no reason for it.

Team Wellington, coming off a 4-2 victory away against Waitakere last Thursday, should claim three points over a youthful Wellington Phoenix in the final round-robin outing.

"The magnitude of tomorrow's game isn't lost on us because it'll add up to a classic six points," says Robertson, also mindful it is an ideal time to remain in the O-League because Auckland will host all the games next summer.

While he adheres to a philosophy of fuelling the desire to win a game every time the team run on to the park, the former Bay United defender says it's hard to ignore the O-League carrot.

"At the start of the season it was our No 1 goal to qualify for the O-League," he says after Team Wellington made their maiden cut two years ago and competed last year in Fiji.

Leftback Liddicoat, in his low-key sort of way, attests to the importance of making the top.

"The team always has high expectations and winning is the main goal," says the 18-year-old from Palmerston North whose age belies his capabilities on the park.

He rates Team Wellington "good" but shifts the focus on the need for Bay United to build a solid platform in order to grab their opportunities. Another stalemate will make the final round a lottery with both sides needing to turn their oppositions into target practice to boost goal differences so, consequently, it's better to do or die tomorrow.

Liddicoat was born in Brunei, where parents Helen and Michael were schoolteachers, before returning to New Zealand when he was 6.

"Dad was a rugby player, he started following my soccer and he's getting more and more into it," says the teenager who Angell successfully recruited midway through last season.

A product of Angell from the age of 14 through the Central Football age-group representative teams, Liddicoat relishes making the 2-1 losing 2014-15 grand final to City on debut after just four starting XI runs.

He was the envy of footballers at Palmerston North Boys' High School.

"It was disappointing not to win the grand final but I was happy with my soccer."

Angell's personnel were predominantly different last season but, for the record, Bay United drew 2-2 here with Team Wellington and lost 1-0 away.

All that, of course, means nothing tomorrow.


WHO: Hawke's Bay Utd v Team Wellington.

WHEN: Tomorrow, 3pm kick off.

WHERE: David Farrington Park, Wellington.

REFEREE: Chris Kerr.

AST REFS (1&2): Mark Rule, Mark Whitehead.


TEAM WELLINGTON: 1 Scott Basalaj (GK), 3 Steven Gulley, 4 Anthony Hobbs, 5 Bill Robertson (co-c), 6 Christopher Bale, 7 Leonardo Villa, 8 Cole Peverley (co-c), 9 Thomas Jackson, 10 Luis Corrales, 11 Mario Alberto Barcia, 12 Andrew Bevin, 13 Alex Feneridis, 14 Ben Harris, 15 Magno Viera, 17 Fergus Neil, 18 Saul Halpin, 22 Alexander Carr (RGK).

Coach: Matt Calcott.

HAWKE'S BAY UTD: 1. Joshua Hill (GK), 2. Sean Liddicoat, 3. Kohei Matsumoto, 4. Finlay Milne (c), 5. Harrison Nash, 7. Cory Chettleburgh (vc), 8. Tom Biss, 9. Ross Wilcox, 10. Zane Sole, 12 Cheauxyan Maukau, 13. Godwin Addai, 15. Samuel Mason-Smith, 17 Blake, Andrew, 18 Martin Canales Ramos, 19. Birhanu Taye, 21. Fabien Kurimata, 23 Paul Ifill, 25 Kyle Baxter (RGK).

Coach: Brett Angell.

Ast coach: Paul Ifill.