Hawke's Bay United co-coach eyes title glory
Hawke's Bay United shook off the threat of a bottom-of-the-table finish in the New Zealand Football Championship with today's 3-2 victory against the Wellington Phoenix Reserves in Napier.
Thirsty Whale Hawke's Bay United were more dominant than the score suggests in the Bluewater Stadium encounter and co-coach Chris Greatholder refuses to rule ISPS Handa Premiership glory out of the equation.
"Win next week [away against Waitakere United]and we might squeeze into the top four. Today's win keeps us in the fight," a delighted Greatholder said afterwards.
"Bar a 15-minute wobble all of our players got 8, 9 or 10 out of 10 today .... I couldn't single any one of them out," Greatholder said.
The win was an ideal belated birthday present for captain and busy defender Fergus Neil who turned 29 on Friday. It's a victory 16-year-old goal keeper Oscar Mason will remember for the rest of his life as it was his first start in the Premiership.
"Yes Scott [regular keeper Morris] had a touch of tonsilitis. But it was more of a tactical change as Oscar has been training well week in and week out and deserved an opportunity," Greatholder explained.
Forward Jorge Akers (pictured above, photo Steph Gunther)) had a cracker of a game with two goals. Midifelders Sam Pickering and Ahmad Othman, the other goal scorer, were also prominent for a side which had 17 shots on goal, six more than the Wellingtonians.
The hosts had first use of a strong breeze. After putting a shot on goal over the cross bar in the second minute Akers gave the Bay a 1-0 lead three minutes later after a mistake from Phoenix keeper Alex Paulsen.
Wellington Phoenix had to wait until the 17th minute for their first shot on goal but Mason deflected it with aplomb. The score remained 1-0 until halftime.
Former Hawke's Bay United player Luis Toomey, a product of the Napier Marist club, scored the equaliser from a free kick two minutes into the second half.
Talented Phoenix forward Riley Bidois gave the visitors a 2-1 lead in the 22nd minute after clever build up work from Toomey.
Hawke's Bay's substitute forward Gavin Hoy shone with his decision making, pace and accuracy and his classy assist gave Akers his second goal in the 29th minute. Hoy was the key architect the build up to Offman's match-winning goal 10 minutes later.
While Bidois and Toomey were influential up front for the visitors captain Kurtis Mogg marshalled the defence well.
The only concern for Greatholder and co was the fact far too many scoring opportunities weren't capitalised on in the 12th round clash. This aspect of their game wll have to be improved if they are going to upset Waitakere United next Sunday.