Football: Good start after promotion

By Stuart Whitaker

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Jerahl Hughes (left) tussles with Onehunga's Kyosuke Kitand in Tauranga City United's season opening win. Photo / Stuart Whitaker
Jerahl Hughes (left) tussles with Onehunga's Kyosuke Kitand in Tauranga City United's season opening win. Photo / Stuart Whitaker

Tauranga City United made a winning start to life in the top flight with a smash and grab raid on Onehunga Sports on Good Friday.

After last season's promotion-winning performance lifted the club into the Northern League Premier Division, there could have been few more daunting first-up assignments than away to the team that finished third in last season's premier division.

But, with the nucleus of last season's squad still at the club, City came away from Auckland with a 2-1 win and three league points.

Last season's top scorer Jerahl Hughes started this season with two, one in each half, and both from the spot.

But it could easily have gone wrong, with the hosts opening the scoring on eight minutes.

"Believe it or not I was quite comfortable when we went one down," said City coach Duncan Lowry, "because what we do, we do right - our shape's right, we haven't changed our shape for three years."

From the start Hughes looked dangerous on the right, and he again got round his defender to get the ball into the box for the first penalty decision for hand ball.

City were close to taking a lead into halftime when a Hughes' shot was saved, but not held, by Onehunga keeper Tim Allen, Colm Kenny putting the parried ball wide. Ten minutes into the second half, Lowry made his first change, bringing Andrew Cooper on for teenager Nathan Monne. Minutes later he also replaced Dean Styles with Mark Van Der Salm as tempers began to flare.

"That's all part and parcel of the game," said Lowry, "people get carried away, there are 50:50 tackles, there's a split second between a good tackle and a bad tackle. That's why I took Dean Styles off. Dean's ability is, he wins tackles and he hurts people. I took him off and two minutes after that Jordy (Culpepper) got booked. If Jordan had got booked before I would have taken him off."

City's second penalty came from a foul on Kenny in the box.

As Onehunga pressed, Tom Pamment kept his side in the game with a fine diving save to his left and centre backs Sam O'Regan and skipper Ray How allowed the hosts few chances.

Although pleased with the win, Lowry refused to get carried away. "It's taken us three years to get here in the big league and now we're here it's up to us. "

- Tauranga City United are home to Birkenhead United on Sunday, kick off 2.45pm.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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