Midfielder backs Rovers prep without spying mission
It's fair to suggest Napier City Rovers Central League football side's midfielder Sam Pickering was well placed for a pre-match spying mission or two this week.
Sixth-placed Thirsty Whale Napier City Rovers host third-placed Lower Hutt in a round 14 match at Napier's Bluewater Stadium tomorrow. Like Rovers forward, Kaelin Nguyen, Pickering, is Wellington-based and makes the odd Rovers training when he can.
"Yes, I could have done some pre-match scouting. But we know how they will play," Pickering replied when the suggestion was put to him.
"They do what the Phoenix senior players do. They are always tough and while we know how they will play we still have to counteract.
"Fortunately for us, our coaches Bill [Robertson] and Jonathan [Gould] have a lot of experience in dealing with their players and know their strengths so we will be prepared," Pickering explained.
A Hawke's Bay United player last summer, Pickering, 27, joined the Blues roster three rounds ago. He was playing for the Petone club, one for which he has played more than 100 Central League games and where he continues to coach while still holding down a day job in the IT industry.
"I enjoyed my summer working with Bill and playing for Hawke's Bay United. This was going to be one of those situations which could work.
"I've got an opportunity to help Rovers push for a top-four finish which would give me an opportunity to play in the new-look National League next summer," Pickering explained.
"Petone were happy to let me go and chase it while still coaching at the club and that made the transition a lot easier," Pickering added.
While Rovers head coach and centre back Bill Robertson was reluctant to label this week's match a "must-win" one he agreed it was crucial to snare some points to assist their quest to reach the top four.
Robertson pointed out experienced defender Fergus Neil was unavailable with his knee injury. Strikers Josh Stevenson and Cam Emerson, who both missed the win against Petone on July 3, were on light duties at training earlier this week but were confident of being ready to play tomorrow.
It will be interesting to see whether last weekend's rest, because it was a Chatham Cup week for those teams still in contention, proves beneficial for the hosts. Blues fans will be hoping it freshened the squad up but that they won't take too long to get back into stride.
The Rovers team of 16 for tomorrow's 2pm match will be selected from the following squad:
Oscar Mason, Liam Schofield, Sam Pickering, Isaac Belcher, Sam Wall, Cam Emerson, Zac Madsen, Kaelin Nguyen, Ethan Ladd, Josh Stevenson, Jim Hoyle (captain), Luke Minshull, Bill Robertson, Ben Wade, Harry Mason, Sam Lack, Isaac Milley, Shae Bauerfeind.