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Weekend Preview

Weekend Preview

Southern United vs Hamilton Wanderers

By Rab Smith

Hold on to your hats, the real National League is about to start, after lots of training for some, and nervous anticipation by very many Southern supporters - the big league starts on Saturday.

Historically 3 pm every Saturday was the epic moment, either getting lifted over turnstiles, or squelching to the touchlines on some public park, or the old Caledonian, where some climbed in without paying - and passing trains slowed down to let passengers have a glimpse of the game.

This was after pouring over team lists to see if you agreed with Coach player selections, and checking fixture lists to see who played where and when, and planning your social life around important matches.

Well the waiting is over, and life in the present, 2016 on October 22nd Southern United plays Hamilton at 2pm on Saturday at Porritt Stadium and the Wanderers as new entrants to the Stirling Sports Premiership ( national league ) will be a tough nut to crack on their home ground.

Yes, coach Paul O'Reilly has had a couple of tropical pre-season matches to try and shape his team, but the acid test will be in actual SSP matches.

Pre-Season matches are invaluable for coaches and managers, yet often many substitutes are used as players get subbed on and off, and it can be difficult to assess good combinations. Sometimes you can't see the wood for the trees....

However, O'Reilly's decision at halftime when winning 2-1 over Tasman, to put on a  complete new team, was pretty brave, and after the new group played well - lets hope it indicates a new found depth of playing strength for Southern.

Eric Molloy's two goals against Tasman might have been doubled and with a confident attacking mindset, utilising the wide left pace of Andy Mulligan, and Harley Rodeka's carving forward runs that produced several shots - goalscoring is a top priority.

More scrappy was the 2-nil loss to Canterbury when coach Willi Gerdsen's red and blacks allowed less time on the ball, and severely tested Southern's organisation. Canterbury are rated as a 'top four' team, so the game was invaluable.

Centreback Stephen Last was a commanding figure, with good support from his fellow Irish, but under quick Canterbury pressure, there were too many break downs and poor passing that cost ball possession.

The arrival of Southern's five Irish players has certainly strengthened last years squad. They are - Stephen Last - centre Back, Danny Ledwith - centre midfield/left back, Conor O'Keeffe - right/left back or centre midfield, Andy Mulligan - left wing/forward, Eric Molloy - right wing/forward.

Coach O'Reilly has already worked with his imported players in teams that played in Ireland, so he is well aware of their potential.

The Canty pre-season match provided good aspects and some not so good for O'Reilly, but as an experienced coach, he has been there before, and will make his initial selection for Saturday on current form.

Team captain  Harley Rodeka has been named, and there are many aspiring local Southern players who will benefit from training and playing with the Irish Pros. 

Coach Paul O'Reilly remained happy with how things were going ahead of the team's first league match against Hamilton Wanderers this Saturday.

"It was, as expected, a tough test, against the Cantabs '' he said. "They're pretty strong, I think they're going to be in the top four, probably competing for a top two place realistically.

"Defensively we were quite solid. Obviously we got beaten 2-0, but they didn't break us down a lot. They didn't have a lot of chances in the game, which is good for us."

Stephen Last went close with headers off two corners, Chris Kessell hit the cross-bar and Harley Rodeka had a near miss.

"The area to improve for us is in the final third. We did have some good possession, but we definitely   didn't do enough with it. We didn't have enough chances in the game, we didn't break them down enough."

"We're hopeful we can get a big result against Hamilton in game one. "They look strong; they went through pre-season without losing a game." said O'Reilly

Hamilton will be jumping out of the starting blocks in this first match, and has also had its share of pre-season buildup games. The Wanderers club is centred in a population area comparable with Dunedin, yet only 125 kms from Auckland it has the proximity to attract players.

Recently the Wanderers beat Eastern Suburbs 2-1, which is a big result since Suburbs is regarded as a strong unit.

Hamilton Wanderers have almost completed their squad for the forthcoming Stirling Sports Premiership, after picking up five more players.

They are midfielder Alexis Varela, a regular for WaiBop United over the past three seasons; striker  Jama Boss,  one of the Northern Region Football League's most prolific scorers; defender Christian Gray, a regular for Waitakere United last year; and midfielder Kenta Nakashima and forward Regont Murati, who both played for Northern Region Premier Division champions Central United during the winter.

Intense competition for first team positions mean those players join, goalkeepers Damian Hirst and Matt Oliver; defenders Curtis Robinson, Johnny Konings, Jordan Shaw and Sam Redwood; midfielders Dylan Windust, Rossi Nkoy and Xavier Pratt; and forwards Ethan Galbraith, Judd Baker and Marc Evans.

Coach Mark Cossey said he was pleased with how his team organisation was coming along and hopes his squad will give Hamilton a positive start on Saturday.


Southern United Women vs Canterbury United


The women's team head up to Christchurch for their first competitive game of the season off after having the bye in the first round to play Canterbury United. Canterbury are coming off the back of a 4-1 victory over Auckland last week in the opening round of the Nationals Women's League.

The two teams are no strangers to each other as the Southern United women played the Canterbury team just three weeks ago in a pre-season game where the score line was in Canterbury's favor. A lot was taken away from this game and the hard yards put in at training in the last couple of weeks will lift the spirits of the team heading into their first competitive game of the season.