Vital to ‘get off the bus’
GISBORNE United player-coach Kieran Venema has one big concern about his team’s game against Havelock North Wanderers Reserves in Hawke’s Bay tomorrow.
It is that when they get out of the van taking them to Guthrie Park, Havelock North, part of them will still be in travel mode and their minds won’t be focused on the match.
“You have to ‘get off the bus’ or teams like this can hurt you,” Venema said yesterday.
“We have to go out there as we would for any big game.”
Heavy Equipment Services Gisborne United lead the eight-team Pacific Premiership, with 22 points from eight games. Havelock North Wanderers Reserves are second-bottom, with four points from nine.
Venema recalled an away game from two seasons ago, against the same opponents. It was the year United won the league with the last kick of the last game, against Eskview. But the match against Havelock North was also crucial to the premiership.
“They were bottom of the table and we were down 4-1 at halftime with 10 men,” Venema said.
United had lost a player — sent off after 12 minutes — and they faced the prospect of their title hopes unravelling.
“We got back to draw 4-4, and we went on to win the league by one point,” Venema said.
The Eskview game and Josh Harris’s winner in added time had still to come, but without that 4-4 draw in Havelock North the premiership title would have been decided on goal difference.
Harris is in doubt for the game tomorrow. A groin injury kept him out of last week’s home win against Napier Marist Seconds, and Venema would like to give him plenty of time to recover so that he is available for several tough games further down the track.
If Harris sits out tomorrow’s match, James Bristow is likely to take his place on the left flank, with the rest of the team much the same as they were last week.
Venema expects that Havelock North coach Dion Adams will have his players put pressure on United to stop them playing out from the back.
If that happens, Venema will probably push skipper Dane Thompson forward for United goal kicks so he can try to flick on the kick for United’s forwards.
Other than that, Thompson looks set for another game in a defensive midfield role alongside Venema.