KEINZLEY Agvet Wairarapa United's football season could be defined with two crucial matches this weekend.
First up is a vital Central League match tomorrow evening against Wellington United.
The teams share sixth place on the league table with eight points, nine behind competition leaders Napier City Rovers.
If United do have ambitions of being serious contenders for championship honours they cannot afford a slip-up against Wellington United, the development team for the Wellington Phoenix, and includes 2015 Wairarapa United Player of the Year Liam Hare in their line-up.
Wairarapa United have rarely lived up to their early season expectations of being a title challenger, with injuries and suspensions hampering preparation and performance.
One shining light has been striker Sam Mason-Smith, who leads the Golden Boot with 11 goals. However, he has four yellow cards, and one more would result in a one match suspension, so his involvement in the game could be limited.
Player-coach Paul Ifill is expected to be able to field a near full-strength team for one of the few times this season. He said recent signings midfielder Tim Fenton and striker James Hoyt have had a couple of weeks to fit into the team pattern and could provide the x-factor that has been missing from the early part of the season.
Ifill is likely to start on the bench, with a niggling knee injury still causing some concern.
United should have too much experience and poise for the youthful Wellington team.
Ifill said: "It's these types of games they have to win if they want to be in top two or three in the league."
The match kicks off at 5.30pm tomorrow at Memorial Park, Masterton.
United back-up on Monday in a Chatham Cup fixture away to Western Suburbs.
WomenWairarapa United's 40-match unbeaten run will be under serious threat on Monday when they play Palmerston North Marist away in the third round of the Women's Knockout Cup.
Marist sit second in the Women's Central League, a division higher than United, and have suffered only one loss in this season's league, scoring 25 goals and conceding only four.
Wairarapa United coach Phil Keinzley rates Marist as the best team in the Central League.
"They are well balanced and we will need to play at full potential and hope for them to have an off-day."
Keinzley is planning to play a counter-attacking system where "we get players behind the ball and wait for the opportunity to strike on the counter-attack".
He sees striker Stephanie Andrews-Paul, who will drop back into a midfield role, midfielder Chontelle Laban, and Sophie George in defence as key players if United are to progress to the next round.
Kick-off is 1pm at Memorial Park, Palmerston North.