Hawke's Bay United
NZFC - Round 8
Halftime: Referee: Matt Conger (Palmerston North) Crowd: 1000
by Hamish Bidwell of Hawke's Bay Today at Bluewater Stadium
The last time we saw Hawke's Bay United at Bluewater Stadium, they were playing the role of the former battlers learning how to win against a Canterbury United side that's just battling full stop.
After today's New Zealand Football Championship match, well, it seems the home side is still learning. It's just a shame Auckland City aren't showing any signs of forgetting.
If the league-leaders were ever likely to get turned over again at Bluewater, then it was today. Minus a host of regulars, they lost Bryan Little to a thigh-muscle injury sustained as he walked in from the warm-up.
Come the 79th minute, when Joel Matthews was booked for a second time by referee Matthew Conger, they were down to 10. A melee three minutes later resulted in Greg Uhlmann getting a straight red and, theoretically, the visitors were in the poop.
Yet it was them that looked the most likely to score in the eight remaining minutes, plus four for stoppages, as they played their way to a deserved 1-0 win.
They really and truly could have folded their tent up and decided that this just wasn't their week. But, no, the good teams don't do that.
Excuses are the domain of the would-bes; winners just see challenges that can be overcome.
"I'm really pleased with the character and the way we re-organised things, because it's been a hell of a week," Auckland coach Colin Tuaa said.
"We had seven missing and then the last-minute change with Bryan, so it was pretty pleasing after all that."
In the first half, especially, you'd never have known there was anything makeshift about Auckland's line-up. Ki-Hyung Lee was imperious in the middle of the park and set up the sole goal when Mitchell O'Brien could only parry his long-range free kick into the path of Ben Sigmund, who tucked it home.
In contrast, Hawke's Bay looked like they'd enjoyed Christmas as much as your NZFC correspondent. They were sluggish, couldn't string two passes together and in danger of being over-run.
"It was a good result and we played some good stuff, but just continued to lack that goal scoring touch," Tuaa said.
"We had some really good chances and just couldn't take advantage of all the possession we had. That's a feature of our game at the moment, but we're getting the results.
Which is something Jonathan Gould wished he could say about his Hawke's Bay side. Instead he was left wondering why they were so flat in the first spell and how they couldn't profit from their late numerical advantage.
"I thought we were poor in the first half, but that the way get hold of the game in the early part of the second half gave us a chance,'' Gould said.
"I think the second half is hard to gauge, because the game was a farce really towards the end. What we didn't do when they got down to nine men was continue to pass the ball in the way we had in the previous 20 minutes, because we had opened them up.
"We're not a good team yet; we're a better team and we need to keep working very, very hard to reach the level of Auckland City."
On the send offs, Tuaa thought Matthews' was harsh, considering he was hampered by cramp and about to be subsituted when he made a clumsy lunge at Stuart Hogg. As for Uhlmann's, the coach pleaded an obstructed view.
Lee, Sigmund and Young were the visitors' best, while Graham Fyfe, Jarrod Smith and Cole Peverley were Hawke's Bay players who deserved better than a 1-0 defeat.
Pictures: John Cowpland www.alphapix.co.nz
1. Mitch O'Brien (GK)
1. Ross Nicholson
2. Joel Mathews
3. Cole Peverley
5. Ben Sigmund (captain)
4. Greig Henslee
6. Ki-Hyung Lee
5. Campbell Parkin
8. Chad Coombes
6. Ian Hogg
10. Grant Young
7. Stu Wilson 56 off
11. Luiz Del Monte
10. Jeremy Brockie 62 off
15. Jeff Campbell 72 on
11. Graham Fyfe (captain)
4. Lance Heslop 61 off
20. Sam Jenkins
20. Greg Uhlmann
25. Jarrod Smith
26. Rupesh Puna
8. Chris McIvor 62 on
12. Tamiti Williams
14. Chris Greatholder
14. Alex Feneridis
15. Stu Hogg 56 on
21. Riki Van Steeden 61 on
17. Daid Gearey
7. John Niyonsaba 72 on
23. Scott Dunn (RGK)
17. Bryan Little
=2 yellow cards
= red card
Welcome to Bluewater Stadium where it's a typically hot, sunny Hawke's Bay day. The big pre-match news is the sight of Bryan Little sitting on Auckland bench despite being named on the starting sheet with his place taken by Lance Heslop. Hawke's Bay United squad captain Chris McIvor is also on the bench after the winger-cum-striker missed the first third of the season.
0 mins - We're off at Park Island.
5 mins - Heslopis through on goal by a weak left footed shot is saved by Hawke's Bay stopper Mitch O'Brien.
10 mins - Uhlmann nods just wide from a Luiz Del Monte corner
11 mins - Auckland striker Grant Young is one-on-one with goalkeeper O'Brien but drags wide before colliding with the keeper who needs treatment to his face.
17 mins - GOAL! 0-1 Auckland take the lead after captain Ben Sigmund tucks home a blistering free-kick from Korean "Cannon Shooter" Ki-Hyung Lee which O'Brien cannot handle.
20 mins - Ki-Hyung Lee is on target with another cracking freekick but Hawke's Bay are saved with Sam Jenkins nodding the ball to safety over his own bar. Auckland are rampant.
29 mins - Yellow card - Hawke's Bay's Chris Davies goes in referee Conga's little black book.
45 + 3 - Hawke's Bay finally get a shot on target but Graham Fyfe's effort is easily handled by Auckland stopper Ross Nicholson.
Halftime - Auckland go to the break with a deserved 1-0 lead while Hawke's Bay boss Jonathan Gould will need to weave some magic in the Bay dressingroom.
46 mins - We're underway again.
52 mins - Young heads over from a Luiz Del Monte cross.
56 mins - HBU Sub - Stu Wilson off/Stu Hogg on
61 mins - Young lobs O'Brien but his shot bounces wide.
61 mins - Auckland Sub - Lance Heslop off/Van Steeden on
62 mins - HBU Sub - Jeremy Brockie off/Chris McIvor on
64 mins - Graham Fyfe is just wide with Hawke's Bay's best chance.
71 mins - Hawke's Bay continue to create chances with Stu Hogg heading over a Fyfe cross.
72 mins - Auckland Sub - Jeff Campbell off/John Niyonsaba on
73 mins - Yellow card - Auckland's Joel Mathews has gone into referee Conga's book.
74 mins - Sam Jenkins saves Hawke's Bay again, clearing a Grant Young shot off the goal line.
75 mins - Auckland are ramping up the pressure but cannot find a second goal with Chad Coombes nodding a free header from a Del Monte cross wide.
79 mins - RED CARD! Joel Mathews sees red after receiving his second yellow card; just as he was about to be substituted by Auckland coach Colin Tuaa.
82 mins - RED CARD! It's boiled over with Auckland down to nine men after a bench-clearing meele which sees Greg Uhlmann take out Ian Hogg. Uhlmann receives a straight red while Hogg sees yellow for his involvement.
90 mins - Four minutes of stoppage time to be added. Can Auckland hold on?
Fulltime - Yes they can - Nine-man Auckland City hang on to win 1-0 and maintain their one-point lead atop the NZFC ladder.
Full report and pictures to follow.