Hawkes Bay United coach Matt Chandler refuses to let the loss of several key players cloud his thinking before tomorrow's must-win New Zealand Football Championship clash with Waitakere United.

Chandler will head north for the game at Fred Taylor Park without Phil Clarke, Stu Ferguson and Sam Halligan (all suspended), top goalscorer Leon Birnie, captain Jonathon Taylor and George Barbarouses (all injured). But rather than dwell on that as a negative, Chandler takes a positive spin.

"It makes it difficult for sure.

"But on the positive side it means a young guy like Dan Ball will get his NZFC debut and other academy players like Andy Bevin and Fergus Neil will get game time," he said.

"They join another of the academy players, Marama Thompson, who has played the last eight games.

"Really, I can't wait to get up there. We had an inter-squad training game this week to help us sort out selections and there was a real feeling of positivity among the players.

"We are really looking forward to it. We had a 2-2 draw down here earlier in the season. That was a game both teams enjoyed."

Hawkes Bay travel north with three games to play and still a chance of making the top four for the semifinals.

A loss tomorrow could see such hopes dashed whereas Waitakere, with just the home game against Waikato FC to play after tomorrow, have given up any realistic chance of claiming the minor premiership.

But they still have plenty to play for. This game will be a final trial of sorts for coach Neil Emblen as he settles on his squad for next week's O-League trip to Tahiti.

With Tim Myers now at Otago University - although he returns for the Tahitian trip - and Emblen putting himself on the bench, Waitakere will go with the centre-back pairing of Jason Rowley and Jack Pelter.

Gone from the squad for last Saturday's O-League triumph over AS Magenta are Craig Wylie, Dimas Da Silva and Zane Sole. In come Ryan de Vries and Luis Del Monte.

Leading goalscorer Brent Fisher, recovering from a couple of recent knocks, will also play off the bench.

Of his call to leave under-17 international Sole out of the squad for both the NZFC game and today's National Youth League fixture against Hawkes Bay in Napier, Emblen said Sole was sitting on a youth league yellow card and did not want to risk a second before Wednesday night's crucial youth league match against Auckland City.

In the other northern NZFC game tomorrow, Waikato FC will be looking for more of their late season resurgence when they play the unpredictable Team Wellington in Ngaruawahia.

Auckland City travel to play YoungHeart Manawatu fully aware the home team have not won at the ground this season. In Christchurch, third-placed Otago travel up to tackle a Canterbury United side who drew 1-1 with Auckland City last Sunday.