Hawke's Bay United
NZFC - Week 10,
Sunday January 17, 2010
Birnie (9', 84')
Halftime: 1-0 Referee: Matt CONGER Crowd: 250
by Ryan Majstrovic at Park Island
Hawke's Bay United kept its NZFC play-off hopes alive as they saw off Waikato FC in treacherous conditions at Park Island today.
It is to the credit of the ground staff of Hawke's Bay's spiritual home that the surface held up, though free-flowing football was not in abundance thanks to the soft ground and slippery conditions under-foot.
Both sides struggled to piece together meaningful play in the opening stages with a stop-start theme prevailing.
Though heavy rain over the previous day had produced conditions that were far from summer, it perhaps in reality saved a battling Waikato FC side from complete destruction.
After losing influential striker Steven Holloway to work commitments earlier in the season, Waikato have struggled and can only now look to pull a rabbit out of the hat for any play-off aspirations to come to fruition.
In fairness, they gave as good as they got – and even after losing Daniel Peat to a red card mid-way through the first half proved difficult to break down.
Though an early goal down thanks to a well-taken finish from Leon Birnie, Waikato proved tough to penetrate for their hosts, with 16 year-old goalkeeper Alex Carr producing several key interventions as Hawke's Bay piled on the pressure.
Parity on the scoresheet was literally a kick away almost immediately following the first red card, when man-of-the-match Richard Gillespie was adjudged to have brought down Michael Gwyther when through on goal – despite seeming to get two clear hands to the ball at full stretch in front.
Predictably, both sides surrounded the officials in protest and plea. From the ensuing penalty, Gillespie read correct to save and hold Gwyther’s effort.
The Hawkes Bay lynchpin was coy in receiving unanimous praise for his efforts, simply stating –
“Given the circumstances surrounding the penalty, and the odd word spoken following it…I really had to save it, didn’t I?," Gillespie said.
Even after the disappointment of an opportunity missed, the experience of Che Bunce and ex-professional Jason Chewins maintained a sense of belief for the visitors.
This hope evaporated when they were reduced by another player as past Melville United team-mates David Samson and Matt Hastings clashed mid-way into the second half.
Though noticeably lacking in possession or opportunity to attack, Waikato deserve credit for not folding completely.
Carr was vital in keeping the score respectable until late in the second half, as Hawkes Bay enjoyed the vast majority of possession in opposition territory.
Post-match, Waikato Coach Che Bunce lamented two red cards for tackles that would be better forgotten.
“I thought with ten we were doing okay – but when you go down to nine…what can you do?”
Bunce perhaps summised the Waikato situation to a tee, recognising the need something major has to change if the Ngaruawahia-based franchise is to take anything from their remaining matches.
“It’s a good thing the transfer window’s open, because we’re two players short now!”
He also acknowledged the impact conditions had on the fixture – something that somewhat ironically the hosts seemed to adjust to better.
“I think it’s the first time in about 15 years of coming here it’s been raining, including the winter.”
In response, Hawke's Bay counterpart Matt Chandler was gracious in victory, though clearly relieved to have got the result his side desperatly needed.
Chandler made special mention of Waikato’s Carr, highlighting the bright future he has ahead.
“I worked with Alex when he was 12 years old. The kid broke his leg, and to think 4 years later he’s playing National League football – and doing well to boot is just fantastic.”
“What was also really pleasing about today is that we had three Academy products out there. Andrew Bevin, Fergus Neil, and Marama Thompson were all outstanding and it’s so encouraging for the future of this franchise.”
And it wasn’t until Neil’s introduction that Hawke's Bay really finished Waikato off, with the fresh legs he brought – along with crowd favourite Andrew Abba and young Australian Sam Jacob – finally breaking down and eventually overcoming the Waikato defence.
Abba’s Solomon Island compatriot Joachim Rande got on the scoresheet with an unstoppable drive from the edge of the area, and Leon Birnie completed the scoring with Abba this time the provider of a pinpoint cross to the near post.
Chandler was also keen to focus on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’ when it came to evaluating his own side’s performance.
“Of course the three points is vital, but it was more about our attitude and performance than the result today.”
He will have been well-pleased when in the dying stages Gwyther managed to evade three defenders to be clear on goal a matter of yards out, only for the ever-alert Gillespie to produce another top-drawer save and secure Hawkes Bay’s first clean-sheet of the season.
Chandler’s men are away next Saturday to Otago United – who will be smarting after being well beaten at the hands of Auckland City by 5-0 – while Waikato can look forward to a hosting Canterbury United, who provided a depleted Waitakere United with a long return trip north after beating them 4-0 at English Park this afternoon.
Hawke's Bay United
23. Richard GILLESPIE [gk]
1. Alex CARR [gk]
2. Sam HALLIGAN
2. Che BUNCE
4. Chris GREATHOLDER (off 72')
3. Richard BEARD
6. Jonathon TAYLOR (c)
4. Charlie HOYLE
7. Matt HASTINGS (off 66')
6. Jason CHEWINS (off 79')
8. Leon BIRNIE
8. David SAMSON
10. Joachim RANDE
10. Michael GWYTHER
16. Marama THOMPSON
13. Shaun VAN ROOYEN (c)
17. George BARBAROUSES
14. Daniel PEAT
18. Andrew BEVIN (off 65')
17. Mark JONES (off 84')
21. Stuart FERGUSON
23. Alex BARLOW (off 59')
1. Shaun PETA [rgk]
26. Scott ROBINSON [rgk]
3. Phil CLARKE
5. Joe SIMPKINS
11. Andrew ABBA (on 65')
7. Tewi TE POU
12. Sam JACOB (on 72')
16. Paul STEWART (on 79')
24. Fergus NEIL (on 66')
18. Corey HITCHENS (on 84')
24. Maurie WASI (on 59')
=2 yellow cards
= red card
HASTINGS gets to the bye-line to find BIRNIE's stooping header at the near post, which goes narrowly over the crossbar
we're underway again, with no changes to either side
the pitch has softened considerably along with the tempo of the fixture
#8. David SAMSON goes in hard on Matt HASTINGS, and wins an early shower
Waikato enjoy a brief foray into Hawkes Bay's half, which results in a counter-attack and Marama THOMPSON attempting to chip Carr who was forced into a desperate sliding clearance
#17. Mark JONES is replaced by #18. Corey HITCHENS