• Rovers drop to sixth, Chatham Cup clash next

Rovers drop to sixth, Chatham Cup clash next

It was painful stuff but the Napier City Rovers Central League football side is still unbeaten at home.

That's the best way to describe Thirsty Whale Napier City Rovers 0-all draw with Waterside Karori in today's seventh round clash at Napier's Bluewater Stadium. The hosts were tentative in the first half and didn't display the same intensity on defence as the visitors who adopted an in-your-face approach throughout the match.

By the halftime whistle Waterside-Karori had eight shots on goal, three more than Rovers. Waterside Karori had also forced four corners, one more than the Blues.

The Blues second half was a lot better and they had 12 shots on goal, seven more than the visitors.  The hosts also forced seven corners, six more than Waterside Karori.

As was the case the previous week, the finishing and execution in the attacking third was poor from the Blues. With three wins, a draw and three losses the Blues are sixth on the points table and three points off the top three where they need to finish to secure a berth in next summer's new-look National League.

More was expected from the Blues today. It was not just a must-win clash to keep those top three hopes alive, they were also eager for a polished display following the deaths of two former Blues players during the week.

Former keeper Steve Graham, who played for the Blues from 2001-'03, and was a member of the 2002 Chatham Cup-winning squad died after being involved and former centre half, Noel Hadwin, who played 106 games between 1973 and 1979 also died.

Sixteen-year-old keeper Oscar Mason (pictured above, photo Stephanie Gunther) was again outstanding. It was just as well Mason was on form as his deputy on the subs bench was 52-year-old assistant coach Jonathan Gould who was forced to strip when Mason's regular deputy, Reon Werahiko, was forced out with concussion issues.   

The former Hawke's Bay United trio of striker Jack Parker, midfielder Josh Murphy and defender Ben Lack were all prominent in Waterside Karori's gutsy effort.

Rovers head coach and centre back Bill Robertson agreed his lads lacked energy in the first half but improved in the second half despite not capitalising on their numerous chances. 

"There were lots of positives including the fact we're still unbeaten at home," Robertson said.

Their next Central League encounter will be against top-of-the-table Miramar Rangers at Bluewater Stadium on May 23. The Chatham Cup holders have a first round away match in the Cup against New Plymouth on Saturday.