Waitakere 3 HB Utd 1
Fred Taylor Park, Auckland
It's hard enough trying to notch victories on the road against high flyers but when you are one man down early into the second half then the plot tends to start meandering into the realms of mythology where St Christopher carried a boy across the river amid a storm.
Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United were 2-1 down against Waitakere United in yesterday's ASB Premiership soccer match in Auckland but when referee Matt Conger flashed the second yellow card at striker Sean Lovemore in the 58th minute the chances of coming away with at least a point became increasingly harder.
Adopting a kitchen-sink mentality at Fred Taylor Park meant the visitors were doomed to concede a 3-1 defeat although they remain on the third rung of the premiership table despite back-to-back away defeats.
"We pushed everyone up, leaving only three in the back and they scored on the counter," said coach Chris Greatholder after last summer's signing, Milos Nikolic, who didn't play a game for the Magpies, found the net two minutes into added time.
According to the premiership website, the Bay struggled to find much rhythm in the first 10 minutes with Waitakere United creating havoc. In the 11th minute, Brian Shelley headed in his first goal for the club after latching on to a David Mulligan freekick.
Still reeling from the onslaught, the Bay defence were caught on the hop after they failed to contain a long-range speculator from Tim Myers as first-goal provider Mulligan became scorer, taking the ball around Bay skipper/centreback Bill Robertson, to extend the lead to 2-0.
Just as the hosts were lulled into believing the floodgates would open, the English connection in the Bay matrix combined to pull the score back to 2-1 in the 22nd minute.
Midfielder Stephen Hindmarch, thinking quickly, took a freekick to catch the Waitakere defence napping as striker Stephen Hoyle nipped in to beat goalkeeper Danny Robinson in what was described as "a goal out of the blue".
In the 32nd minute, Conger flashed a yellow card at former Waitakere bench player Lovemore, who Waitakere coach Paul Marshall said had used abusive language.
It wasn't until 13 minutes after the breather that Conger saw red, adjudging Lovemore to have tackled Chad Coombes crudely.
Greatholder preferred not to reach for his holster but rued another set of refereeing decisions that changed the game.
"Sean went into a 50-50 challenge with a shoulder challenge in the first one but the referee didn't see it that way.
"In the second, Sean's clearly won the ball but ... it's a shame but the ref's done and acted on what he's seen so can't argue with that. That's football, I suppose," Greatholder lamented.
Marshall, also emphasising he never liked criticising whistle blowers because it was one of the toughest jobs in the world, said both Lovemore's incidents were fouls but "I don't think they were bookable offences".
Bay midfielder Cole Peverley was serving a match suspension yesterday after a straight red card last Sunday in the 4-0 defeat at the hands of Canterbury United while Harley Rodeka fell foul in added time against Auckland City at Kiwitea St on November 18.
Yesterday Waitakere United failed to capitalise on the visitors' 10-men handicap.
Greatholder said Lovemore's red card was more crippling because he was an attack-minded player while the other red cards were collected also in added time
"It's a double whammy because neither he nor the team deserved a red card."
Marshall said his team, leading on the table, failed to score two or three more goals in the first 20 minutes. "If you don't seal a match when the opportunities present themselves then you're leaving the opposition still in the game."
The Bay host Team Wellington at Park Island, Napier, this Sunday. Wellington lost 1-0 Otago United at home yesterday. "It's a decent result for us."
Greatholder was happy to have given all his bench players some game time but said veteran keeper Richard Gillespie was "struggling a little", which means former Waikato United reserve gloveman Danyon Drake might be making his debut this weekend.
Canterbury United beat Youngheart Manawatu 2-0 in Palmerston North.