Chandler resigns but Bay boys stick to task

HB Utd 3 Canterbury Utd 0

Everything, you could argue, looked normal.

The Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United and table-topping Canterbury United footballers were grunting and, every so often, questioning each other's pedigree in Napier.

Coach Matt Chandler was coming in and out of the dog box like a yo-yo, growling or smiling depending on what was unfolding at Bluewater Stadium, Park Island, in the third round of the ASB Premiership clash.

Even the familiar bearded face of Terry O'Neill, floppy hat, apron and all, signalled why summer can be an aberration as he merrily went about selling raffle tickets at the ground.

Yet, strangely enough, everything was far from normal. In fact, it was as predictable as the thunderstorm along the motorway between Hastings and Napier, which thankfully didn't affect the game.

The 44th and 45th-minute goals to Bay striker Hamish Watson and skipper Bill Robertson, in the Bay's 3-0 victory for starters, were totally out of the blue.

Just ask the "goal supporter", Chris McCarrey, who will have to pay $50 for Robertson's goal plus $2 each for every Bay goal in the match, including Sam Margetts' one in the 61st minute.

"Hopefully, he'll [McCarrey] put his hands in his pocket, if that's what he said," a grinning Robertson said, adding he can put the ball away when the delivery is right.

"It's pleasing about me scoring the goal but it's more about us getting three points at the end of the day," Robertson said selflessly.

Never were truer words spoken.

But something else overshadowed the Bay's first win of the season, like a vicious southerly on the heels of an ill wind.

The bombshell that Chandler had resigned and at the end of this month will leave for Brisbane where he'll assume the mantle of coach at a club there.

"Some of the senior players knew after speaking to Matt at training during the week," Robertson said, adding the players' motivation was always to make the top four play-offs in the premiership regardless.

Board chairman Peter Grant told fans after the game they had reluctantly accepted Chandler's resignation last Wednesday.

While surprised and disappointed with Chandler's timing only two games into the season, Grant said the board understood the Brisbane offer was "too good to turn down" and wished him and his family well.

"We are going to approach three to four people and make appointments as necessary," the chairman said, adding the board didn't have the luxury of time to advertise or go through a rigorous interview process.

It is understood the franchise will stick with its "systems" and "building blocks".

That could mean assistant co-coaches Chris McIvor and new edition Jonathan Taylor may be in the mix with possibly Napier City Rovers Central League coach Grant Hastings coming in at some capacity too.

The board is scheduled to confirm the appointments in the next few days.

Robertson said after the board had consulted the players: "Matt's worked hard to put in a good squad so we don't want anyone to disrupt that.

"We want someone who'll stay with that squad."

Off-pitch news aside, fans must not forget the Bay are back on track this summer in their quest for a maiden play-off berth.

Chandler couldn't fault any player saying it was difficult going into the breather 2-0 up against a side who hadn't conceded a goal until yesterday, mindful Canterbury would throw the kitchen sink at them in the second spell.

"Everything today was as near-perfect as I've seen from any team in Hawke's Bay," he said, praising his players' ability to re-energise themselves and regrow.

That three different players scored goals also reaffirmed Chandler's belief in the team's culture to build momentum and not rely on a saviour.

"I'm very pleased with how resiliently we defended," he said, adding he tweaked the line-up a little and the gamble paid off.

"In the field, the rotation of players was a problem for them to deal with."

Chandler was correct in his assertion that Canterbury seldom looked like scoring.

Hamish Watson showed no fear for an 18-year-old striker.

"I'll be amazed if he doesn't become an All White," Chandler said.

Robertson echoed Chandler's sentiments of a "complete performance, which we showed in pre-season".

"The squad's got a lot of quality and we showed it today.

"It shows we're genuine top-four contenders and we'll be there or thereabouts at the end of the season."

He and fellow centreback Danny Wilson got under the skin of Canterbury striker George Slefendorfas' with schoolboy irritability.

Bay Utd dominate physical battle


"He's scored a few goals in the first couple of games.

"No disrespect to the teams he's played against but I think he had a battle on his hands.

"Danny and myself knew we were going to be attacked but we're physical centrebacks and I don't think he handled it too well, to be honest.

"We knew he was a threat and we've got to be on our toes but we got the job done pretty convincingly."

Having played patches of "brilliant football", Robertson felt the challenge for a new-look squad was to put together 90-minute spells.

It frustrated the Bay stable that the next home game is on January 15 against Team Wellington, dashing their hopes of maintaining a winning momentum here soon after the away matches against Otago United on November 27 and Waikato FC on December 18.

The return from injury of regular keeper Richard Gillespie and striker Milos Nikolic will test the fabric of the squad.

Chandler agreed. "Richard is definitely the best goalkeeper in the league and Milos was the second top scorer last season.

"They will definitely be knocking on the door but they will make my job pleasantly hard."

Canterbury coach Keith Braithwaite lauded keeper Peta for a few good saves and accepted his players didn't respond too well in the physicality stakes.

"If we'd gone in nil-nil at halftime it could have been a different story.

"We've got no complaints because Hawke's Bay wanted it more than us.

"They got the result, we didn't - end of story."

Braithwaite bemoaned his troops' impotency in making things happen.

However, he ruled out any fingerpointing before their next round match against Team Wellington at home.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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