Canterbury United will be without midfield general Aaron Clapham when they meet Team Wellington at ASB Football Park on Sunday in a national league match for which the historic Gordon Cup has been revived.
The cup used to be at stake in representative matches between Canterbury and Wellington after being donated by New Zealand player Merv Gordon in 1954.
As the victors in the last rep match for the cup 10 years ago, the red and black team will defend it in its reincarnation for competition between the two national league franchises.
The Jones Cup, which was competed for by Canterbury and Otago for many years, will be similarly revived next season.
Canterbury's hopes in a must-win match for both teams are shakier for the absence of All White Clapham, who received his fourth booking of the season for a "handbags" set-to with several Auckland City players in last week's 1-3 home loss.
"None of them were booked which was unbelievable, but it means he misses one game," said Canterbury coach Keith Braithwaite.
He's debating whether to use Chris Murphy or defender Nick Wortelboer (who played in midfield for Cashmere Technical last winter) instead, with Nathan Knox a third possible option.
Canterbury, fourth, are nine points ahead of Wellington, fifth, with the league split into a clear top four and bottom four at this stage.
"It will be a do-or-die game for them," said Braithwaite. "If we knock them over, their chance of making the top four will be very slim.
"And knocking them over would put us well on the way to securing a spot in the top four."
However, he'll want a much livelier performance than he got from his out-of-sorts team against Auckland, who he said were the Manchester United of New Zealand.
"The thing with this league is you have a Christmas break, and people go on holiday and come back and are not as sharp as I would like them to be.
"Up until the 50th minute we were as good as them, but then Auckland had the edge."
Canterbury should also welcome back skipper Dan Terris, after the coach decided to be cautious and rest him for the Auckland game.
Canterbury won 1-0 in Wellington in round two and are unbeaten with three wins and a draw in their last four meetings, and the capital men haven't won since November 25 when they beat Manawatu 3-1.