NZFC - Round 5,
Centennial Park, Ngaruawahia
December 7, 2008
Stu Hogg 2, 51
Halftime: 1-0 Referee: Nick Waldron Crowd:
by Bruce Holloway at Centennial Park
Waikato FC have emerged as the Cinderella of the New Zealand Football Championship.
Seven weeks ago Waikato were poised to withdraw from the New Zealand Football Championship, having less money than a Blue Chip investor, no home ground, being unable to honour a coaching contract, and still puddling around without a finalised squad.
But since then Waikato have written a rags-to-riches fairy tale in terms of team performance, if not money in the bank, which culminated in a 2-0 home win over top-of-the-table Youngheart Manawatu at Ngaruawahia today.
It means Waikato are now one of three teams locked on nine points at the top of the table, on the back of their first three-match winning run in four years.
In the circumstances, with Waikato again riven by absences and injury, and entering the match with Stu Hogg as the squad’s only recognised striker over the age of 17, it was a remarkable result.
Elsewhere Waikato captain Graham Pearce played despite serious blisters, right back Joel Mathews struggled through with a corked thigh, and Michael Mayne successfully battled his own fitness demons in the heat.
Hogg was one of many heroes for Waikato. He showed greater confidence after two goals last week, and twice seized on opportunities from set plays to take his season tally to four.
In the second minute he brilliantly headed home at the near post from a Craig Wylie free kick on the right, then had an even easier second after Manawatu failed to deal with a booming Nathan Strom long throw early in the second spell.
For a team playing a 4-5-1 formation, those goals were pure gold. Perversely, with just Hogg up front, Waikato enjoyed more goalscoring chances than they have all season, and only a series of improbable misses prevented them pocketing another two or three.
To a certain extent that was a result of Manawatu reverting to three at the back in the second half, as they looked to match Waikato’s numbers in midfield.
The result was a good open contest with plenty of chances at both ends.
Waikato seized the early lead after Nick Keown-Robson earned a free kick on the right. Wylie’s inswinging left-footer was perfect for Hogg and the early goal gave waikato the belief they have sometimes lacked this season.
It was no accident Waikato made a bright start.
"I was conscious we had been slow starters in our previous matches and I changed the warm-up routine to make sure we were ready to fire from the start," coach Dave Edmondson said.
It is a big thing to be ready at 2pm."
Waikato’s second goal was the first tangible reward Waikato have had this season from Nathan Strom’s imposing long throws.
Strom is the Valerie Vili of New Zealand Football – he can out-throw anyone – and the first of his second half mortars was not cleared by Manawatu. Hogg couldn’t believe his luck and smacked in a left footer from inside the 6-yard-box.
Hogg also hit the bar from a great run and was always dangerous I his best performance in Waikato colours.
Manawatu had a spell early in the first half when they threatened to take Waikato apart, but somehow never quite managed it, despite Gonzalo Nieres being a constant danger.
Manawatu’s obvious midfield strength was somewhat neutered by Waikato crowding out that sector.
Waikato keeper Greg Walters did have a few shots to save, but again looked comfortable with everything that came his way.
Best for Manawatu was right back Scott Robson, who made many intelligent runs, and supplied some great crosses.
On the other hand, Jason Hayne never really fired, with Manawatu coach Bob Sova later calling his display "indisciplined".
"Perhaps we look for him to be a match-winner every week, but this was not his day."
Sova saw the match in terms of his team again failing to deal with set plays.
"For two weeks in a row set plays have cost us. We had enough possession and chances."
Edmondson, who is starting to really enjoy his second coming as Waikato coach, was delighted with the result.
"When you look at the draw, Manawatu were always in a bit of a false position at the top of the table," he said.
"But our success is based upon team spirit and the work ethic. Training is a great place to be at the moment. The players are eager to come and they want to play as a team.
"I think we can do even better. A champion team will always beat a team of champions."
Edmondson named bread-and-granite midfielder Joe Simpkins as his player of the day.
Simpkins is a muscular and determined player, and gave a display of great stamina in the middle of the park, against more fancied opponents. He was happy to graft and run the extra mile in conditions where others were wilting.
Simpkins later said he had ‘chilled out" with his game this season.
"Last season there was not the unity that the team has now, and I feel more comfortable and confident in what my job is."
Marco Rojas, 17, lit fires all over the place when he came on late in the day. While fellow sub Stu Watene hit the bar after a bullocking run, Rojas was all guile and craft, and set up a certain goal late in the match with some slippery work on the sideline - only for two of his team mates to miss the final touch at the far post.
If Rojas lived in Wellington or Auckland, he would be in a national age group squad.
Meanwhile referee Nick Waldron and his assistants Mark Owens and Pat Barrett contributed to a good open spectacle with excellent matches.
In his aftermatch speech Sova gave Waikato a warning.
"When you come to Memorial Park you will get a good pitch with plenty of space and we will really take it to you."
From the back of the clubrooms Waikato centreback Strom, never short of a word, offered an alternate view.
"It doesn’t matter what the quality of the pitch is like if you play the ball in the air all the time," he said.
Photos: Geoff Dickinson and Grant Stantiall
19. Greg Walters
1. Chris Marsh
2. Joel Mathews
2. Adam Cowan
3. Ben Hunt
3. Pablo Yackson
4. Graham Pearce
4. Jan Weissenfeldt
7. Joe Simpkins (out 89)
7. Jason Hayne
10. Stu Hogg (out 73)
11. Scott Robson
13. Shaun Van Rooyen
12. Seong-Bae Park (out 50)
14. Craig Wyllie
16. Raf de Gregorio
18. Nick Keown-Robson
18. Finlay Milne (out 57)
24. Michael Mayne (out 78)
20. Gonzalo Nieres (out 89)
25. Nathan Strom
22. Cory Chettleburg
1. Jason Mann
6. Matt Kennedy (in 57)
9. Marco Rojas (in 78)
8. Nathan Cooksley
15. Rhys Ruka
9. Gustavo Saralegui (in 50)
21 Jonathan Stables (in 89)
10. Leo Shin (in 89)
23 Stu Watene (in 73)
=2 yellow cards
= red card
GOAL 1-0! What a start by the home side! Nick Robson is brought down on the right wing and from the resulting free-kick Stu Hogg glances a near-post header past Chris Marsh. The free kick was a left footer frm Wyllie.
YoungHeart's Uruguayan marksman steps his way through the Waikato defence and almost reached the 6 yard box before hitting a tame shot straight at Greg Walters.
Park gets to the byline for Manawatu and crosses but headed clear by Strom for a corner. A short corner, shot blasted high over the bar.
Hayne curls a free kick well over the bar. It's a great day at Ngaruawahia again, with a crowd of about 250 in, cloudless day, little breeze.
Mayne and Simpkins start a move in midfield for Waikato which leads to Hunt crossing for Hogg to volley over from distance
Hayne corner, right foot inswinger, headed over at near post by Park, who is very lively.
A massive long throw from Nathan Strom gets beyond the penalty spot, but Mayne can't steer it home from close range. If throw ins were an Olympic sport, Strom would be gold medallist.
Walters collects a through ball ahead of Hayne
Hayne beats two but concedes a foul in stretching to beat Van Rooyen. Injury break with Mayne, Simkins, requiring attention.
Nieres turns and shoots just wide from 14m
Hogg runs onto a through ball but his chip, from the left beats Marsh but rebounds off the bar. End to end stuff
Great run from Adam Cowan but can't quite connect with Hayne and Pearce clears with a header
Strom heads wide at far post from a left wing corner
Mayne wins possession, passes to Simpkins and his through ball is just a shade too strong for Hogg and is collected by Marsh
Scott Robson injured in a clash. Half time.
There were a few technical problems at the start, which prevented a proper intro. But 'm standing in for your usual host, the happy-go-lucky Matt Richens, who has been waylaid by a very full social calendar at this time of year. Unlike Matt, I'm a lot more curmudgeonly and don't do email chat during a match -- I'm too busy actually watching what is happening on the field - but if you are desperate for a fan's-eye view of the game, the forum at www.melvilleunited.co.nz/forum is usually good starting point for a few post-match Waikato opinions on who was rubbish. It's another cracking fine day in Ngaruawahia, not a cloud in the sky and just a slight breeze. Centennial Park, the home ground of northern league first division club Ngaruawahia United, now has a security fence around three of its sides (with the clubrooms frontage on the fourth), and tiers of terraced seating along the southern sideline. Reports of Waikato's financial problems have obviously been overstated, because despite the fence and gates, once again no efforts have been made to enforce an entry charge, and with a crowd of several hundred on hand, it would have been money for old rope. But there you go. The place has a nice atmosphere and the pitch is as good as it has ever been, though is affected by slight undulations which can affect the bounce. Ben Hunt is playing at left back today and so far holdign his own against the runss of Hayne. Hogg is workign hard in a one-man attack for Waikato, which is proving very dangerous. Park and Nieres lok classy for Manawatu. There are likely to be more goals in this very open game.
Waikato attackinng the clubrooms end. Hogg header from another Strom long throw
Hayne slices a shot for a goal kick
Sub for Manawatu: Park off and Saralegui on
GOAL! The Strom long throw finally pays off, Manawatu fail to clear and Hogg seizes on a biobbling ball to grab his second from close range.
Former Waikato age group rep Matt Kennedy comes on as sub for Milne
Hogg played through, must score, misses, but offside anyway.
Hayne free kick headed clear, free kick to Waikato
Cowan blasts wide when he mght have done better after a hayne cross
Hogg subbed off for Stu Watene, making his first apearance of the season
Robson, must score, clear in front, ouch, over the top by miles with a lob.
Sub: Rojas on for Mayne
Watene hits the bar with a great left foot shot on the run
Walters saves from Robson after Hunt gives away possession on Manawatu's right
Rojas goes down in the area, but it's a corner rather than a penalty. Robson takes, save.
Watene through, Marsh saves, Rojas crosses almost along the goal line, but Wylie can't turn it in.
Subs: Stables for Simpkins, for Shin for Nieres
Walters saves a snap shot, Shin puts the rebound over the bar
90 + 4
Full time. Waikato have beaten the league leaders and recorded three wins in a row for the first time since the inaugural NZFC season - with rather a scratch team!