Bay's halftime vibes pay off

By SHANE HURNDELL

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HB Utd 4 Otago United 2

Even the most one-eyed Hawke's Bay United football team supporter will struggle to believe midfielder Leon Birnie.

A foundation player with Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United, Birnie, said the hosts were confident of securing a win at halftime in this ASB Premiership encounter at Bluewater Stadium yesterday despite trailing 2-0.

"We were very confident ... the vibe wasn't that bad. We knew the opportunities were there and our movement was good. We just lacked the final pass," Birnie, 29, said afterwards.

Believe it or not, it doesn't matter. The Bay backed up their halftime vibe, dominated the second 45 minutes and got the victory

"We've still got a mathematical chance of a playoff berth. If we keep going the way we're going and other results go our way we could get one," Birnie said.

He put the hosts in front for the first time in yesterday's match with a flip ball over the head of Otago United keeper Peter Evans in the 75th minute.

"It was a good feeling. I've worked hard to get fit and get my starting spot back. There's still another season or two left in me at this level and then it would be good to get involved in coaching," Birnie added.

Bay coach Chris Greatholder was delighted with the belief his troops displayed in the second half.

"We've set high standards and the boys knew they let themselves down in the first half. They also knew what they had to do to get the win," Greatholder said.

Naturally, Greatholder is keen to build on this momentum and he was to hear today whether or not a catch-up game against Waikato is to be played in Hamilton on Saturday.

Otherwise his side will be without a match this weekend.

Yesterday's first 45 minutes were frustrating for the Bay fans. After the hosts had two shots on goal in the first three minutes they allowed Otago to control the spell.

The home side lacked the necessary control and were too slow to move the ball away from the confrontation area.

When they did this at pace in the second half they created more scoring opportunities and gained superiority.

At the same time Otago United's in your face defensive work in the first spell must be praised.

The way their key forward Ant Hancock operated in the first spell brought back memories of former Napier City Rovers player Paul Halford when he was in his prime.

Hancock scored both of the visitors' goals.

The first came in the 15th minute when he capitalised on some sloppy defensive work from the hosts at corner time.

Hancock's second came in the 45th minute after a classy pass from winger Regan Coldicott.

Both teams had six shots on goal in both halves. Along with Hancock, Harley Rodeka, was always a threat on attack for Otago United in the first spell.

Captain Tristan Prattley's defensive work was also top shelf during the first 45 minutes. Although he wasn't stretched as much as he should have been as the home side's players lacked the necessary hunger, control and accuracy.

Far too often Hawke's Bay United failed to take the easy option in the first half and made hard work of what should have been simple plays.

Their third shot on goal in the first half came in the 34th minute.

Otago defender Jude Fitzpatrick opened the scoring for the Bay with an own goal in the 66th minute and when he was subbed off in the 77th minute a couple of wags in the crowd suggested he should have gone to the home bench rather than Otago's. Bay substitute Hamish Watson scored the equaliser in the 67th minute.

From this point on the hesitation disappeared out of the hosts' attack and there was more width and pace.

Five minutes after Birnie put the hosts in front another Bay substitute, Stu Wilson, scored the final goal after some superb passing.

All of the Bay players deserved praise for their contributions to the second half comeback.

Once again keeper Shaun Peta's positional play was spot on in the second half.

Greatholder was thrilled to report there were no major injuries collected in the match, another reason why he is keen for the catch-up match with Waikato to be played this weekend.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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