ASB Premiership - Week 5
Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Sunday 11 December 2011
Mike CUNNINGHAM 2'
Halftime: 1-0 Referee: Mirko Beneschke Crowd: 500
by Rab Smith at Forsyth Barr Stadium
After the Auckland City away match, Cunningham and defender Tom Connor head for the Melbourne football scene, and Otago’s loss will be some Australian club's gain.
Otago coach Richard Murray admits that the pair will be a real loss, but still basking in the glow of winning the derby with Canterbury, he pointed out that his squad revealed hitherto unexpected depth.
"Sure, we will miss Mike and Tommy, but as they say, doors shut and others open. We have a bunch of ambitious young players in Otago and they are willing to run through brick walls to get in our starting eleven," he said.
And the whole Otago bench was airborne when team captain Tristan Prattley left footed a freekick at the Canty goalmouth, and from the rebound, Mike Cunningham laced Otago ahead with the Stadiums big digital clock still registering under two minutes.
That spectacular start might have been even better as Regan Coldicott – with blood running down his face – had a fierce shot blocked, then fellow striker Ant Hancock followed suit.
Canterbury’s route one tactic of feeding the ASB top striker George Slefendorfas with long balls, caused some concern when he wriggled free and forced one blocking save from keeper Peter Evans.
But that was about it for the the imported striker who was nullified by tight marking and athletic heading by centreback Matt Joy and later, much later Slefendorfas was red carded for a flailing elbow in the 75th minute, spotted by assistant referee Brent Best.
Referee Mirko Beneschke was the target of loud advice from both sides as he flashed six disciplinary cards, and then the red.
The game may be remembered as Cunningham’s and Connor’s final home match, but their impressive performances were eclipsed by Otago’s Olympic hopeful’s Darren Overton and Tristan Prattley.
Both played exceptionally well. Centreback Prattley plugged any gaps at the back, with Joy casting a large shadow in front of goal, while Scottish defender Craig Ferguson and the mobile Connor worked the flanks with pace and accuracy.
Overton was the fulcrum of so many Otago attacks. He led the line with stamina and pace, bought space with effective feints, and went close to scoring several times.
Otago keeper Peter Evans only had a couple of saves to make, plus some high takes from set plays, in what was quite a comfortable afternoon.
Coach Murray also gave his bench a chance to show their worth, and academy youngster Joel Stevens’ pace and tight control promises much, as did the glimpse of striker Donnie MacGregor, and Roslyn’s young midfield stalwart Sam Mepham who pounded a fine header off the Canterbury crossbar.
Individually Canterbury has some clever players. Russell Kamo and Darren White showed out, but there were some flat performances that frustrated coach Braithwaite.
"We played so well last week," he said, "but this was a poor performance."
In contrast, Otago coach Richard Murray recently back from an U15 Youth tour to Singapore, and his offsider Andy Duncan were delighted at their teams hard work and discipline.
"We wanted to get into Canterbury’s face, yet still keep an attacking attitude. At times we had three forwards breaking, and as they drew Canterbury’s central defence out of position, some probing long passes had them struggling," said Murray.
"The real contest now for Otago will be during midweek training as players vie for places. It’s a healthy situation and with the huge task ahead of playing Auckland away, next week. We will need to be firing on all cylinders,’" he said.
22. Peter EVANS (GK)
22. Adam HIGHFIELD (GK)
3. Tristan PRATTLEY (c)
4. Nick WORTELBOER (Terris 46')
5. Matt JOY
5. Tom SCHWARZ
6. Morgan DAY
7. Darren WHITE
10. Ant HANCOCK (McGREGOR 90+2')
8. Aaron CLAPHAM
15. Darren OVERTON
9. George SLEFENDORFAS
18. HARLEY RODEKA (Mepham 82')
10. Russell KAMO
21. Mike CUNNINGHAM
15. Julyan COLLET
25. Craig FERGUSON
17. Cole PEVERLEY
27. Tom CONNOR
19. Calvin OPPERMAN (Murray 46')
7. Regan COLDICOTT (Stevens 67')
24. Jeremy WILD (Barton 61')
1. Oswaldo RODRIGUEZ (GK)
2. Dan TERRIS (46')
9. Donnie McGREGOR (90+2')
12. Andy BARTON (61')
14. Sam MEPHAM (82')
16. Joe MURRAY (46')
20. Matt BROOK
20. Ken YAMAMOTO
23. Joel STEVENS (67')
=2 yellow cards
= red card
Play by Play
Welcome to the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin for this Round Five ASB Premiership clash between South Island rivals Otago United and Canterbury United. Both sides sit inside the top four going into this one, with Otago looking for the win to jump ahead of Canterbury and move in the top 3. Its the last game this season for Otago's Mike Cunningham and Tom Connor, who are heading to Melbourne. For Canterbury, it is the long awaited league return from injury of stalwart, Dan Terris, who will probably come off the bench at some stage. The teams have just gone inside to conclude preparations. The pitch is looking immaculate, and the clouds that have hovered over Dunedin all day carry no chance of affecting this one, under the roof here in Dunedin. Approximately 10 minutes til kick-off.
The crowd is slowly building, about 300 at present, with the chance of a few more coming over at the lunch break in the cricket across the road, where Otago are piling on the runs.
Teams entering now, PRATTLEY wins the toss for Otago, Canterbury to kick off.
Canterbury kick off.
GOAL! An early free kick about 40 yards out from Tristan PRATTLEY and a sharp pass from Ant HANCOCK gave Mike CUNNINGHAM the ball 15 out, and put an unstoppable shot to the left of keeper HIGHFIELD. Otago lead 1-0.
Former Canterbury player Darren OVERTON has the chance to double Otago's lead, but Adam HIGHFIELD came out well and palmed it away. Otago well and truly on top here.
Canterbury finally make something happen but no one can get a touch on a fine cross by Darren WHITE
Canterbury are failing to use the width of the field and are resorting to an attack based on long balls.
I spoke to soon as a stunning through ball sees Aaron CLAPHAM out it past keeper EVANS. Matt JOY covering preserves Otago's lead.
Tension rising as Otago give away a number of free kicks.
Otago win a free kick in a promising position. PRATTLEY curls it in an wins a corner. Corner intercepted easily by keeper HIGHFIELD.
Play has settled down, both sides are looking to play an attractive passing game, with the vast width of the field. Both defences looking very solid.
Lunch has been taken across the road, and as expected the crowd increasing to about 500.
Ant HANCOCK has the first chance in quite a while, but can only send it flying over the bar.
Darren OVERTON tries to get onto a long ball, but Julyan COLLET intercepts and clears well.
Ant HANCOCK makes a darting run into the box, his pass can't find OVERTON but is deflected away for a corner. Corner delfected out for another corner. The 2nd corner easily saved by HIGHFIELD.
Harley RODEKA and Darren OVERTON create a lovely passing play, and a corner is won.
George SLEFENDOFAS finds himself on the end of a arial through ball, but the flag is up.
Harley RODEKA goes down in the box, penalty appeals waved away, Canterbury appealing for a yellow for simulation or diving as its more commonly known.
At the next stoppage, the Canterbury appeals were answered. Harley RODEKA cautioned for simulation.
A quick Canterbury attack wins a corner.
A late Canterbury attack ends after a woeful through ball from Aaron CLAPHAM.
Referee Benischke calls half time. Otago 1, Canterbury 0. Otago narrowly the better team in a very even and entertaining half.
Otago kick off with the 2nd half featuring a return to the league for fmr Canterbury captain and a man with 102 caps, Dan Terris.
A reckless tackle from Julyan COLLET sees him receive a yellow card and Otago gain a free kick in a very promising position. Taken short, wasted, and away for a goal kick.
A stunning low cross from Ant HANCOCK teases three Otago strikers who can't find the final touch. Out for a corner. Corner sees Matt JOY have a tricky header blocked and Regan COLDICOTT sends it to row J.
Canterbury have a man down. Can't quite catch the number, but hes back up and into it albeit hobling slightly.
A rough tackle on Craig FERGUSON sees Joe MURRAY get entered into the referees book.
A miscommunication between Peter EVANS and Craig FERGUSON at teh abck could well have ended in tears for Otago. It didn't, Otago survive, but they are really under the pump now.
Russell KAMO flies into a tackle and receives a very firm talking to. Lucky to escape without a card.
Theres a card now, as Regan COLDICOTT get the ball taken of him in a tackle that he and the loud Otago crowd think should have resulted in a free kick. COLDICOTT has turned around and taken out Darren WHITE who dispossessed him, in an awful tackle and receives a yellow card. COLDICOTT angry to say the least.
Aaron CLAPHAM and Mike CUNNINGHAM both fly into a 50/50 situation. CLAPHAM comes of worse and leaves the field injured. Mike CUNNINGHAM gets a yellow card. Free kick Canterbury.
A very late tackle from Darren WHITE on Tristan PRATTLEY sees White receive a yellow. Tackles and cards flying here in a classic derby match.
Young Joel STEVENS shot was headed goalward, before being deflected wide. Otago Corner.
RED CARD! AR1 Brent Best has a yarn to referee Beneschke, final result, a red card to league top scorer George SLEFENDORFAS. What for, I have no idea, but Canterbury's task just made harder.
What a way to respond, as a player I think was Andy BARTON forces Peter EVANS to make a great save rushing of his line to save Otago.
Ant HANCOCK called for offside. Had the flag stayed down he had just the keeper to beat.
Goal mouth scramble. Adam HIGHFIELD jumps on the ball at the feet of Morgan DAY, to keep alive Canterbury's glimmer of hope. Time running out though.
Canterbury looking ominous, but Tom CONNOR makes a critical tackle.
4th Official Philip signals for 6 added minutes. Plenty of time left in this one.
Otago through MEPHAM and CUNNINGHAM look to play the game out in the corner. Not overly successful
Sam MEPHAM's diving header hits the bar.
Probably Canterbury's last real chance sees Cole PEVERLEY put it high over the bar
And that's it for today. Mike CUNNINGHAM's 2nd minute strike the difference between the 2 teams today in a even game that saw Otago take the 3 points and move to at least third in the ASB Premiership. Rab Smith will follow with his report.