Bay Utd shred Manawatu to ribbons

By ANENDRA SINGH - Sports Editor

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White Ribbon Cup

HB United 5 Manawatu 0

Ambitious and audacious are two terms that come to mind. Some would simply call it absurd.

That the boy manning the scoreboard politely declined his perch at Bluewater Stadium in Park Island, Napier, on Saturday was understandable and a testimony to the abysmal weather as whipping wind gusts made it dangerous for him to tick over the goal tally.

The handful of spectators further confirmed the inclement weather was prominent but, wind aside, it wasn't that bad at all provided the ball didn't defy gravity too much as Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United predictably thumped YoungHeart Manawatu 5-0 in the White Ribbon Cup match.

The hosts played intelligently, keeping the ball on the ground with deft passes for a lion's share of the game despite the slippery surface although goalkeeper Richard Gillespie's goal kicks hung in the air to return with interest like a boomerang the minute they sailed above the altitude of the stands.

"I thought we did adapt to the conditions pretty quickly but it's kind of what we do now," coach Chris Greatholder said.

"We still had to earn the right to play them because they drew at home and drew last weekend against Waikato so we knew we had to put in our form because it wasn't going to be easy," Greatholder said.

He had injected some young players off the bench such as Luke Chapman and Reilly O'Meagher, revealing later he was awaiting confirmation on four-card suspensions of captain Bill Robertson and centre-mid Adam Cowan.

"So we tried a few things today with one eye on next weekend because it's a sensible plan," Greatholder said before this Sunday's 2pm kick-off at home against Waikato United when the ASB Premiership resumes.

The Bay kicked off with a stiff wind into their faces from the hockey stadium end.

After 16 minutes right wing Dale Higham ran clear on the right flank but failed to cross to an unmarked Stu Wilson on the right. He lost possession but got it back a few touches later only to poke the ball wide of the upright.

A minute later YoungHeart striker Seule Soromon was in full cry of the Bay goalmouth but keeper Gillespie stymied the one-on-one threat.

Wilson, who started a little sluggishly, didn't make a mistake in the 26th minute when he placed the ball just inside the left upright to leave keeper Ben Wilkes stranded as the Bay went up 1-0.

Three minutes later Higham was off target again with Wilson and Leon Birnie unmarked on his left.

In the 37th minute, Wilson made it 2-0 after Birnie worked the ball down the right flank before deftly crossing it to the left upright for the striker to finish.

It was definitely a Wilson family affair three minutes before halftime when the hosts increased the lead to 3-0 from a cornerkick. Wilson's younger brother and centreback, Danny Wilson, nudged the ball into the net with a stooping header near the far post as his father, Malcolm Wilson, took much pleasure in announcing the goal scorers' names.

The game was losing effervescence although three minutes into the second spell Manawatu midfielder Tom Mosquera's header grazed the crossbar with keeper Gillespie beaten but the visitors had no cigar as the ball went out of play.

In the 71st minute referee Jonathan Price took the fizz right out of it.

Having deemed Robertson to have brought down Soromon inside the 18m box, the Auckland whistleblower awarded a penalty but goalkeeper Gillespie read Jamie O'Connor's body language to deny him a goal from the spot kick.

Tempers flared as O'Connor charged to push the deflected ball into the goalmouth but the keeper recovered in time to flick the ball out of harm's way.

The ref saw red in the challenge, sending O'Connor for an early shower although it appeared to be an honest 50-50 pounce on a loose ball. A few handbags were exchanged but calmer players stepped in to ensure the game didn't turn ugly.

The Bay went up 4-0 in the 78th minute after defender Matt Hastings curled a shot from just outside the 18m box from the right flank.

In the 84th minute midfielder Stephen Hindmarch, who took the captain's arm band from substituted Robertson minutes earlier, dropped a 45m speculator from the middle of the field to catch keeper Wilkes on the hop to make it 5-0.

Just as the Black Caps found Zimbabwe an ideal opposition to boost their confidence, the Bay would have benefited immensely from Saturday's game.

Talented young midfielder Tom Biss, though, might want to polish his response time in distributing passes. He was frequently guilty of taking a touch too many on attack, thus letting the defence find its shape.

Against better opposition, Greatholder may be less understanding and forgiving.

The Bay sit on the top of the Northern Conference table with a healthy goal advantage but Waikato United, who beat the Bay 2-0 in Taupo on December 3, have a game in hand and a win over Manawatu on March 17 will seal their final berth against Southern Conference top qualifiers Team Wellington, who beat Otago 6-1 yesterday, to decide the inaugural cup winners on April Fool's Day.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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