Soccer: Rusty start in Bay Utd blitz

By Anendra Singh

Not long after the final had gone the dichotomy of sprinklers in the middle of Bluewater Stadium burst into life.

As it gushed, players from both teams, a few ballboys and the odd spectator got into the line of fire to cool down the heat wave, beating a brief thunderstorm that sporadically hit pockets of Napier.

Symbolically, one could say, the resumption of the ASB Premiership soccer season in Napier between Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United and Waikato United at Park Island after the Christmas break had its moments.

More importantly and deservedly, the Chris Greatholder-coached Bay franchise had ticked the winners' box and duly collected the maximum points with a 4-0 drubbing even if the the first half failed to reach dizzying heights.

Arguably the Bill Robertson-captained Bay should have scored more goals with players missing several one-on-one opportunities or failing to make that last viable pass.

While they were talking about historically clinching a maiden play-off berth this summer, the squad were starting to fancy their chances of going even further.

Robertson said their shape and defensive play stymied Waikato more than they were not cutting it at premiership level because with new coach Mark Cossey they had chalked up two wins.

Breaks of any sort, let alone Christmas, are just that, so expecting vintage footy was always going to be a big ask.

"We worked very hard on our fitness and it probably showed towards the end of the game because they were struggling quite a bit and we still had a bit left in our tank on a very hot day," Robertson said, agreeing match fitness was another thing after a holiday.

The visitors took 15 minutes to settle into the game and started to find holes in the Bay defence but it only lasted about five minutes.

Waikato's defence were calm and collected, not scared to work the ball out of their 18m box but their attack with midfield left little to be desired, quite often bereft of ideas in the final third although the strikers weren't shy to forage.

They lacked peripheral vision, often trying to work the ball between three to four players only to cough up possession.

A couple of minutes before halftime, Bay striker Jarrod Smith added zest with a header at the far post when fellow striker Dakota Lucas, failing to control a cross, worked the ball back into play from the goal line before curling a cross to Smith from an acute angle for a 1-0 lead.

In his first game this summer, Smith used his head again in the 51st minute from a Harley Rodeka cornerkick to extend the lead to 2-0.

The post denied diligent Connor Tinnion's boot eight minutes later from about 25m out on the left flank but in the 78th the midfielder beat goalkeeper Matt Upton from almost the same position to make it 3-0.

With Sean Lovemore and English import Stephen Hoyle coming off the bench for Lucas and Smith, golden boot hopeful Lovemore made the most of his time meagre time when he latched on to a through ball to drive the final nail on the coffin in the 81st.

While the competition for strikers is stiff, they brought varying facets for Greatholder to use against different oppositions.

Lovemore, no doubt, has turn of pace that catches defenders on the hop.

Smith is a solid finisher.

Lucas is a selfless provider with vision in the money zone but some reciprocity from his teammates could have yielded a goal for him, too.

Hoyle is a Swiss knife but needed to relax a bit more to find some cohesiveness in the run of play rather than trying to find the net with every touch of the ball.

"We've got a number of strikers now that any number of teams in the league would be happy to have them ... so there's really competition for places when our leading goal scorer comes of the bench," he said before their game against Youngheart Manawatu this Sunday at Memorial Park, Palmerston North.

The sparse crowd yesterday didn't match that of last summer when straight-talking coach Declan Edge led Waikato.

Cossey, in a changing room resembling a morgue, let assistant coach Neil Mouncher face the media.

Mouncher didn't mince words, and said the transfer window was opening today and about 10 positions would be filled from outside of Waikato to bolster their stocks.

"In the second half we started going backwards again, like when Declan was in charge, with not going forward enough to penetrate," he said, adding several players in the squad were under Edge and only two were from their youth squad.

Mouncher said the premiership was about winning and after yesterday's performance changes were vital before playing Waitakere United.

"We'll have to look outside at other clubs' fringe players," he said.

The Bay Youth side won the season opener 2-0 in the curtainraiser.

A Matt Hastings' free kick in the 14th minute opened their account before an 89th-minute goal from Luke Chapman put their Waikato counterparts out of their misery.

Hastings and Rudi Bauerfeind were the two over-age players in the Dion Adams-coached side.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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