Team Wellington feeling less O-League pressure after first ASB Premiership win

Team Wellington will look to capitalise on their ASB Premiership success when their O-League campaign starts on Saturday.

The team won their maiden national league title by beating Auckland City in the final in March, but striker Andy Bevin said going into the O-League as New Zealand champions would not add extra pressure.

"I feel like there's potentially less pressure on us now having won the ASB Premiership and finding out how good we can be if we have the right mindset.

"We discovered a lot about ourselves in the final, so I feel that players can go into the big games ahead with more belief in this team and their own ability and therefore feel a little less pressure and a bit more freedom."

Last year was Team Wellington's first foray into the O-League as they made it to the final before losing to Auckland in a penalty shootout.

The carrot of a spot at the Club World Cup again beckons for the winner, with Team Wellington up against Suva FC (Fiji) in their first game on Saturday afternoon at QBE Stadium in Auckland, before matches against Lossi (New Caledonia) and Hekari United (Papua New Guinea).

The competition was originally scheduled to be played in Wellington and Auckland, which would have suited Team Wellington well, but budget constraints forced it to be moved to Auckland only.

That posed an unexpected challenge for Team Wellington, Bevin said, with players not taking the usual two weeks leave from work they usually would if the competition was in the Pacific Islands.

"It's going to be really difficult. We won't have the luxury of being together for two weeks to focus solely on winning a tournament like last year's team were able to do in Fiji. 

"We'll face many challenges such as travelling up to Auckland on the morning of the games as well as players working full days in their respective professions outside of game days."

Team Wellington have boosted their depth by signing Mark Jones from the now defunct WaiBOP United.

Jones said it was hard to know what to expect from their opposition in pool play.

"From previous experience, I have a fair idea about how Islands teams play and what we might be up against.

"No team will be taken lightly, so we will need to play to a game-plan, be focused, sharp and take the chances in each game."

Safely through the pool stage, they look on course for yet another final against Auckland.

Since 2014 they have played three finals in the O-League and ASB Premiership against their New Zealand rivals, with Auckland holding a 2-1 advantage.

AT A GLANCE

Team Wellington's O-League pool

Saturday: Team Wellington v Suva, QBE Auckland and Sky Sport, 1pm

Tuesday: Team Wellington v Lossi, QBE Auckland and Sky Sport, 3.30pm 

April 16: Team Wellington v Hekari United, QBE Auckland and Sky Sport, 3.30pm