Waikato brace for imposing Phoenix A challenge

WELLINGTON Phoenix A coach Jonathan Gould has hinted he will bring an imposing line-up to Hamilton on Monday night for the first-ever ASB Challenge Series match against Waikato FC.

Gould says up to nine players from the club-s Hyundai A-League squad could make the trip north joining six Football Development Foundation academy players in the match day squad, which will be confirmed after the Phoenix-s A-League match against Central Coast Mariners on Saturday night in Wellington.

“A large portion of this team is going to be made up of players who play in the A-League and one of the deliverables in setting this team up was to give those players some kind of match preparation,” Gould said.

“And on top of that the youngsters, specifically in this game from around the wider Auckland region, get a chance to play alongside them making it quite a vibrant and exciting mix.”

That could mean the likes of Nick Ward, Diego, Troy Hearfield and Danny Vukovic, none of whom featured in the win over Perth Glory could line up against Waikato if not selected against the Mariners.

It could also mean a return to Hamilton for rising Phoenix youngster Marco Rojas who caught attention of Phoenix bosses during a trial after standout displays for Waikato FC two seasons ago.

“It-s fantastic for Marco. He struggled recently with a niggling injury but got himself fit and back into the first team mix and out of the pitch last weekend against Perth. So for him to now go back to Waikato and ply his trade as a professional footballer, he-ll be very proud because I know he didn-t get that opportunity in the pre-season fixture against Brisbane in Hamilton.”

Former Waikato youth league player Caleb Rufer – son of Wynton -has returned from a stint at Wehen Wiesbade in Germany and could also play some part against his old club.

The other members of the Football Development Foundation academy drawn into the Phoenix A for the inaugural ASB Challenge are Zane Sole, Ashton Pett and Sean Lovemore (all Waitakere United), Danyon Drake (Waikato FC academy) and Alec Solomons (East Coast Bays).

Waikato backed up a competitive but losing opening day performance against Auckland with a hard fought win over Otago in Dunedin last week and with a crunch match against Team Wellington looming on the horizon, the chance to test themselves against a strong Phoenix A side is something coach Willy Gerdsen says will inspire both the players and fans.

“We-re a very young squad and all players want to test themselves against professional players and it sounds like their squad will be much stronger than I thought, to be honest.

“I-m sure with the sort of players it sounds like the Phoenix are bringing, we will get a number of people from the community who may not have come before out to watch Waikato and the Phoenix A side,” Gerdsen said.

“It-s a great little football ground at Fred Jones Park and we-re all looking forward to it.”

Gould, himself a former coach of Hawkes- Bay United in the national league when it was known as the New Zealand Football Championship, was expecting no favours from Waikato.

“Every player that steps on the park and aspires to a higher level would love to play in a game like this, and Waikato will be no different. There-ll be players in there thinking ‘am I good enough to match up against an A-league player.-

“From what I can see, they-ve got themselves very well organised under Willy Gerdsen. He knows his stuff, and has done a fantastic job at East Coast Bays, and while people think of Waikato as a rugby region there-s a lot of passionate football people in the Hamilton area and the club have already started the ASB Premiership with a good away win last week. It-ll be a tough game and that-s what we need.”

The ASB Challenge Series pits the newly formed Phoenix A side against each of the eight ASB Premiership clubs in a series one-off midweek matches for $2000 prize money.

Monday night-s match kicks off at 6pm.

ASB Challenge Series
Waikato FC v Wellington Phoenix A
Fred Jones Park, Hamilton
Monday 15, 2010

Referee: Campbell-Kirk Waugh

Waikato FC (from): 1-John Fletcher (GK), 2-Maksim Manko, 5-Natham Strom, 6-Nick Branch, 7-Jason Hicks, 8-Jason McKeown, 9-Mark Jones, 10-Daniel Peat, 11-Nathan Palmer (captain), 12-Jack Beguely, 14-Joe Bresnahan, 15-Matteo Ballan, 16-Tewi Te Pou, 17-Milos Nikolic, 18-Alexi Davies-Campbell, 22-Alex Carr (RGK), 24-Mauri Wasi, 26-Sam Margetts.

Coach: Willy Gerdsen

Wellington Phoenix A (from): Zane Sole (Waitakere United), Sean Lovemore (Waitakere United), Ashton Pett (Waitakere United), Danyon Drake (Waikato FC / GK), Caleb Rufer, Alec Solomons. Up to nine players from A-League squad to be added.

Coach: Jonathan Gould