Miramar Rangers head into familiar territory
July 25, 2017
Miramar Rangers are once again hitting the road, where they will take on long-time foes Wairarapa United in the Chatham Cup round of 16 at Masterton’s Memorial Park on Saturday.
In a remarkable run of bad luck with the draw, it will be the 11th away fixture in 12 Chatham Cup appearances for Rangers since June 2014.
The match also has a sense of familiarity for both sides. This is the third consecutive year the two teams have faced each other in the competition, with each side winning one game apiece.
Last year, at the same venue on the artificial turf, Miramar won thanks to four goals from star forward Tom Jackson, who is doubtful for Saturday’s game after a long layoff to recover from Team Wellington’s campaign.
Miramar coach Wiremu Patrick said while his squad had become accustomed to playing their opponents in Masterton, he felt for Rangers supporters who again miss out on watching the team play at home.
Patrick believed past experiences with Wairarapa meant his side knew what to expect.
“We know what the crowd’s like. We know their team and what we’re up against,” he said.
In such a tight matchup, he thought the performance on the day will be the telling factor.
“The team that turns up and performs will come away with the win.”
Patrick was backed up by forward Finn Moore, who believed any team could win on any given day.
Moore said the team had become accustomed to playing away from home and were not going to use that as an excuse.
“We have gotten so used to travelling for Chatham Cup games over the last couple of years, it almost makes the game more exciting and the build-up more intense. We are a team that don’t like to make excuses for not performing well and travel is definitely not on that list.”
Wairarapa head into this year’s clash as clear favourites, sitting second on the Central League ladder after scoring 50 goals from 14 matches as they chase their first league title.
In contrast, Miramar have had a disappointing season and find themselves meandering in sixth place and well out of contention for silverware.
However, the disparity between the two teams may not be so wide.
Wairarapa have struggled with injuries to star players recently, including former Wellington Phoenix striker Paul Ifill, who coach Phil Keinzley said was no chance of playing due to a hamstring injury.
Patrick believed Wairarapa have an eye on both the cup and the league, and are unlikely to take too many risks regarding team selection.
Although Ifill is out, Keinzley can still call upon the services of Swedish forward Ermal Hajdari, who has stayed with the team for an extra week before he travels overseas for a trial.
Keinzley said Hajdari’s “experience, professionalism, and brilliant technique” were his major strengths and was delighted the Swede stuck around specifically for this game.
Both sides are recent Chatham Cup winners; Miramar in 2010 and Wairarapa a year later.
Keinzley believed the two sides were equal on paper and history showed they would be in for a close game.
“I know in the past it has always been pretty close, and whoever has won has progressed quite far.”
In last season’s matchup, Wairarapa found themselves reduced to nine men with current captain Sam Mason-Smith seeing red. Despite the bitter memories, Keinzley believed Mason-Smith was in a good space this time around.
“Sam’s playing the football of his life. He’s playing extremely well. There’s been no mention of last year’s game.”
Miramar were dangerous as he believed their primary focus was now the Chatham Cup.
“They’ve got nothing to lose. Their whole season hangs on this which will probably motivate them.
In the only all-Wellington matchup in the round of 16, high-flying Western Suburbs face a tricky assignment against Stop Out at Hutt Park.
Wests lead the Central League, four points clear of Wairarapa, and beat Stop Out 1-0 the last time they met in May. Stop Out are third in the league after winning eight from 14 this season.