Lower Hutt City's fairytale run to their first Chatham Cup final ended in agony yesterday afternoon with a crushing 6-1 defeat to pre-match favourites Central United in Wellington.
Defeat to the now five-time winners was no disgrace, nor was it unexpected, but a scoreline of such magnitude seemed unnecessarily cruel, and not deserved.
With a string of current and former All Whites as well as the backbone of the successful ASB Premiership side, Auckland City, the young Central League side's task was always expected to be a tough one.
That was made clear when Emiliano Tade got a touch following a lolly scramble for an early opening goal, with David Mulligan's excellently taken 23rd-minute free kick into the top left corner giving the Northern Premier side an already unassailable lead.
By then Hutt coach Brendan McIntyre was resigned to that runners-up medal.
"You always expect when you come into a final you'll be in with a shout but to be fair, after about 15-20 minutes I felt it wasn't gonna happen to us today.
Once they got the first goal I knew it was going to be very difficult for us to come back from that," said the Glaswegian whose side had beaten both Maycenvale United and Napier City Rovers to get to the final played in front of a crowd of 2258 at Newtown Park.
Hutt's Kade Schrijvers had the ball in the net at 2-0 but the goal was disallowed. It was obvious anyway there was only one winner. With a defence marshalled by 80-cap All White veteran Ivan Vicelich, and a passing game built around experienced players such as Jason Hicks, Mulligan, and Daniel Koprivcic, Central United were a class above the talented and pacy, but raw, Hutt side.
Just before the break, Koprivcic took advantage of sloppy defending for the third. Heads bowed as they walked into the changing rooms, Hutt's demeanour was of a side already beaten, while Tade could afford a cheeky, celebratory clap towards his club's fans.
Vicelich and Koprivcic with simple headers and Hicks with a brilliantly taken long-range drive put United 6-0 up, while Hamish Price scored a consolation just before the full-time whistle with a speculative shot.
"I think we were a bit naive at times, gave away goals at set pieces, which was a bit disappointing as we tried to protect ourselves against such eventualities before the game," McIntyre said.
"Unfortunately, we just didn't have that quality and they did."Result: Central United 6 (Emiliano Tade 19, David Mulligan 23, Daniel Koprivcic 45+2, 71; Ivan Vicelich 60, Jason Hicks 86) Lower Hutt City 1 (Hamish Price 90+2). HT: 3-0.