Soccer: Disciplined Bay take opener off Waikato

By Anendra Singh

Perfect. Brilliant start. Absolutely delightful. In fact you somehow get the impression you could have chucked in any superlative and coach Chris Greatholder would have picked it up and run with it.

Greatholder's over-the-moon response came yesterday afternoon after Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United beat Waikato United 2-0 in their opening ASB Premiership soccer match in Hamilton.

It was by no means a given as the Declan Edge-coached hosts made the visitors worked hard for the victory in ideal conditions at Porritt Stadium.

Playing Edge's expansive game of keeping possession and crisply passing the ball around, Waikato and Bay United went into the breather scoreless.

It wasn't until the 71st minute that striker Sean Lovemore latched on to the ball before slotting it past Matt Upton in goal after the Waikato defence committed the cardinal sin of letting the ball bounce into the 18m box from a goalkeeper Richard Gillespie's punt.

Nine minutes later, it was Onehunga Sports player Lovemore again finding the net from close range to make it 2-0 after the Waikato defence feebly cleared a shot from midfielder Conor Tinnion following a counterattack.

"The boys put in a real shift. We're in a good space," Greatholder said, pleased the Bill Robertson-captained side followed the script.

"They [Waikato] can play. They kept the ball in front and played an expansive style using Declan's philosophy.

"We had to work harder than them to earn the right to play," said the coach who found himself at the helm of the Bay franchise after last summer's coach, Matt Chandler, left abruptly three rounds into the premiership.

The ructions of 2011-12 are way behind a rejuvenated squad this summer with some fresh faces aiming to help Bay United gain a play-off berth, something the franchise has never done, and remains the only team not to have achieved that goal in the premiership.

"It was like playing a game of chess. We kept our discipline and shape and hit them hard when we needed to.

"The boys have run a marathon and were dead on their feet so a lot of teams will drop points when they come here," Greatholder predicted.

Referee John Rowberry showed centreback Robertson a yellow card for an aggressive challenge on Rory Turner in the 21st minute.

Bay striker Stephen Hoyle collected one six minutes later for a challenge on Waikato substitute Dave Parkinson, who lasted only five minutes after hobbling off the field.

Waikato's Ryan Thomas agonisingly picked one up allegedly for dissent one minute into added time.

Greatholder felt the cards were a testimony to controlled aggression as they tried to prevent the hosts getting on top of the game.

"They have some older heads, too, so if you give them space and time they'll hurt you."

To keep Waikato's assertiveness in check, the visitors had to be more snappy and tap the ball around, too.

What made the Bay's victory even more convincing in the belief they will break an eight-season hoodoo is that ex-All White striker Jarrod Smith and fellow Bay-born striker Dakota Lucas are carrying injuries so they didn't play.

"Ross Halivand [Onehunga Sports] is in a moon boot after re-injuring a broken leg. He will be the keeper of the back four," Greathold said of the defender who has confirmed he won't be likely to run on until January next year.

Greatholder said this summer the squad had strength and depth across the park, unlike last summer when injuries "hurt us".

He lauded Englishman Hoyle for playing provider in Lovemore's goals.

"Stevie created the chances for Sean's goals with assists."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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