Soccer: Luckless Rovers bow to Greeks

By Anendra Singh

What has luck got to do with it?

Everything, if you ask coach Grant Hastings, after Bluewater Napier City Rovers hit a judder bar in the Lotto Central League soccer campaign in Napier.

The third-placed Blues went down 2-1 to Wellington Olympic at Bluewater Stadium, Park Island, after trailing 2-0 for 80 minutes of the match.

The victory pushed the Mick Waitt-coached "Greeks" to the top rung of the table on goal difference after Wairarapa United succumbed 3-1 to Lower Hutt on Saturday.

For Hastings it was 90-plus minutes of toil for the Bill Robertson-captained Rovers without any luck yesterday.

"The first half we've gone close on plenty of occasions and in the second half we were 2-0 down," he said, after striker Jarrod Smith's header clipped the crossbar from a Matt Hastings cross in the second minute of the game.

In the 89th minute Olympic goalkeeper David Plowright was gone for all money when Smith again found no love from the crossbar.

Cruelly it was the Wellingtonians who struck first in the 18th minute when Antony Neonakis jabbed the ball past Rovers keeper Shaun Peta following a cornerkick from Jimmy Haidakis to make it 1-0.

Not surprisingly the visitors had a spring in their stride, picking up the pace as the Blues still seemed to be grappling for composure.

In the 27th minute the Rovers should have equalised from a goalmouth melee following a cornerkick as Olympic laboured to clear the ball.

Ten minutes later defensive midfielder Jamie O'Connor had Peta diving the wrong way from the penalty spot to put Olympic ahead 2-0.

Rovers centreback Regan Cameron was guilty as charged, taking out Haidakis from behind inside the 18m box after midfielder Cole Peverley slipped to cough up possession to Haidakis, who sent off ex-Rover Andrew Abba like a bloodhound.

"There's no doubt the first one was a pen [penalty kick] and the other was a goal and that happens in football," Hastings said, adding Olympic were deservedly on the top of the table after Wairarapa's loss to Lower Hutt on Saturday.

"They were never going to come over here and be easy for us to beat but I think we've showed enough character and shred our guts out today, to be fair, to create loads of scoring opportunities."

Hastings couldn't fault the commitment of his troops to win although he conceded they lacked composure at times.

"It's not over yet. Olympic have got all the points they can get [season's over] and we have two more games at home," he said.

He lauded Peta for making two great saves to keep them in the thrilling game, emphasising to the players at halftime they were still in the game but needed to come out harder.

The Rovers gave rightback Danny Wilson the licence to roam up the flank and pushed three strikers into the fray but to no avail.

"Not a single player from the club let us down today. Hopefully next weekend luck will be on our side," Hastings said for the nailbiter against a smarting Wairarapa who didn't stomach their Chatham Cup 1-0 defeat to the Blues too well as defending champions on June 24.

Yesterday it was Haidakis again running through from 35m out in the 44th minute but Peta did remarkably well to neutralise the chip shot.

Four minutes into the second spell Rovers failed to capitalise from a goalmouth melee.

"Go off, Andrew Abba. You are hurt," a Blues fan yelled out as the pacy and skilful Solomon Islander created havoc with Haidakis.

The hosts started showing frailties, employing long-range speculators in a hit-and-hope fashion while the Greeks continued passing even from defence in their 18m box and, at times, too casually.

Peverley picked up a yellow card for hacking down Neonakis in the 51st minute.

In the 73rd minute, Robertson almost equalised from a Peverley freekick but keeper Plowright fell to the ground to snaffle the ball with a vice-like grip between his legs to yield a freekick from referee Matthew Conger.

English import Stephen Hoyle's frustration kicked in as he conceded a freekick while substitute Reiner Bauerfeind looked worse for wear with the Blues having used their three substitutes.

In the 81st Smith gave the Blues faithful something to grunt about when he poked a goal in from a melee in the 18m box to narrow the lead to 2-1.

Peverley drove the rebounce from the edge of the 18m box in the dying minutes.

But an Olympic defender bravely headed it away much to the Blues fans' dismay.

It was an early shower for 63rd-minute substitute Andy Pickering 25 minutes later when ref Conger saw red from two yellows - one for a tackle and the second when the pint-sized striker threw the ball away with an expletive.

Olympic captain Chaz Lawrence ran across to pat the Blues striker on the head as he trudged off but the ref flashed him a yellow card, too.

"I was showing him a little bit of respect," Lawrence said.

"All I said to him [Pickering] was hard luck and a good game.

"As I'm the captain of the game, I felt I had to do that," he said of Pickering who he felt made "four big tackles" but he thought two of them were harsh.

Lawrence impressed on his troops at halftime the need to relax.

"We just tried to get the ball and then keep it under control."

They were in the undesirable position of relying on other results to win the league title now.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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