Team Wellington down depleted Bay side

By CRAIG STEPHEN in Wellington

Hawke's Bay's United's proud record in Wellington came undone yesterday, but it didn't come without a fight.

Chris Greatholder's side, who had won their past three matches against Team Wellington in the capital, shocked their rivals with an early goal and came close to adding to that on a few occasions.

For all that, they came away with a 3-1 defeat, which considering the coach had 11 fit, and one almost fit, players, and were facing a home side that had been scoring for fun recently, isn't as discouraging as it may initially seem.

Hamish Watson's 18th-minute goal, when he snuck through the defence to prod the ball past the goalkeeper provided hope, but a few minutes later Bay goalkeeper Richard Gillespie gave away a free kick on the edge of the box, when he was one on one with the oncoming Luke Rowe.

Gillespie copped a booking; Rowe drove the set piece past him for the equaliser.

In the second half, the inspirational Henry Fa'arodo made good use of his time as a sub scoring twice, the second of which was partly through a lack of intuition and fast-thinking in the Kinetic Electrical Bay United defence.

A win at Newtown Park would only have pushed Bay United a point behind fourth-placed Wellington.

But afterwards Greatholder was clearly gutted the opportunity to post another fine win over one of the "big four" in the ASB Premiership had passed.

"I felt we could have scored five goals today; to have several good scoring opportunities and score just once is incredibly frustrating,"Greatholder said.

"The keeper played a blinder, cleared one off the line and we missed a couple of sitters too.

"We created enough opportunities to win the game."

Gillespie's foul on Rowe could well have been the turning point, just three minutes after Watson had opened the scoring.

It appeared a clumsy challenge though Greatholder felt his stopper was in a bit of a bind.

"It was a split-second decision, he thought he could get close to the ball and he was the last line of defence.

"I think the referee was right, it was a foul and it deserved a booking.

"A nasty deflection took the ball past him from the free kick so we were definitely paid for that.

"However, we should have cleared it before then, we didn't need to put ourselves into that position."

Greatholder, always an upfront interviewee after a game, admitted a lapse allowed Fa'arodo the chance to score Wellington's third.

However, there was virtually nothing that could be done about the Solomon Islander's first goal - centreback Danny Wilson attempted to smash the ball out of danger but Fa'arodo was close by and the ball ricocheted off him and he only needed a simple tap-in to put the home side into the lead.

But with a Spartan squad and Dale Higham playing an hour - and doing well in that time - despite having a tight hamstring, Bay United didn't have the resources to change the game when they needed to.

There were some good chances, notably when Watson's header was blocked by Phil Imray and Sam Margetts headed the rebound on to the post.

Margetts was also denied by Imray's feet and veteran Leon Birnie was prevented from scoring by a very alert keeper late on.

Ask two coaches their take on the game and you'll be left wondering if they were at different games. But for all Bay's efforts they were undone by a Wellington side that looked more comfortable on the ball, had more resources and, while there was not a great deal between them, did just enough to take the three points.

The result doesn't change the way the minor premiership finishes, with the Bay outside the play-off spots, seven points behind Wellington, who have the unenviable task of getting past runaway leaders Auckland City to get to the grand final.

Bay's six wins, and a draw from 14 games prove them to be again the best of the rest.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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