Soccer: Goalie saves the day for HB

By Anendra Singh

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Richard Gillespie denies Jack McNab a goal.
Richard Gillespie denies Jack McNab a goal.

The youngster manning the scoreboard in Napier had the next number religiously on standby in anticipation of a one-sided soccer match after a 3-0 lead before halftime.

After the final whistle at 92 minutes at Bluewater Stadium on Saturday, Maggie Parson learned pretty smartly that in the beautiful game things don't always follow the script.

Early indications suggested Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United should have put a sleeping hold on WaiBOP United when play resumed in the second half but, instead, it was the hosts who reached for the duvet covers.

If it hadn't been for Bay United goalkeeper Richard Gillespie, his teammates wouldn't have been celebrating a 3-2 victory at Park Island.

"Two points is crucial at this time of the season so we probably got a little lucky there," Gillespie said after his 100th ASB Premiership soccer game.

"After a hundred games you're going to hit red more often than not so it was pretty good to get away with the points," the veteran said, believing the Bill Robertson-captained Bay United went to sleep before halftime.

"We sort of stayed that way and really didn't come out firing the way we did in the first 30 minutes."

Gillespie said they couldn't afford to play anything shy of 90-plus minutes against Auckland City and Canterbury United.

"It's always important to remain professional and not count on any points before you've played the game.

"Whether it's one game or 100 you have to prepare the same."

At 33, his body felt like a 45-year-old's so it was tough.

"It's good to have the likes of Gouldy and the other young fellows who keep chasing and pushing me so it keeps me wanting to play more," he said of reserve goalkeeper Matt Gould.

It would have been fantastic for Gillespie's wife, Wendy, daughter Kayla and Cooper to be there watching him but they were in Auckland attending a family function.

"That's what you miss out on when you're playing football. You miss out on so much other stuff but today it was well worth it."

Bay midfielder Tom Biss, in the golden boot race, broke the deadlock in just the eighth minute with a delayed shot, thanks to referee Matt Conger's clashing grey-and-black colours.

Striker Sean Lovemore did all the hard work, running the ball to the goal line before cutting it back for the 1-0 lead.

Centreback Robertson extended it to 2-0 two minutes later, slipping into the shooting range to the bewilderment of his teammates for a crisp finish.

Maybe fellow centreback and English import Aaron Jones' post-match ribbing to help him score more goals had egged him on.

It wasn't until the 25th minute that Lovemore made it 3-0.

Leftback Fergus Neil put a ball through to midfielder Dave Mulligan, who initially made the mistake of turning in but had the foresight to recover to curl the ball up the left flank to Lovemore.

The striker went around rightback Ben Latham before drilling it past a diving goalkeeper Andy McNeil for the ball to curl inside the far post from an oblique angle.

The visitors got their best chance in the 33rd minute when Mark Jones beat the offside trap to put a deft cross to striker Jack McNab, who butchered a goal probably because a charging Gillespie put him off.

Two minutes later Jamie Mason put one in for Bay United but he was rightly ruled offside for pitching a tent on the far post in anticipation of Lovemore's cross.

In the 42nd, McNab made amends when he received a ball from the left flank, turned 180 degrees to beat Jones before poking it past Gillespie to reduce the deficit to 3-1.

Five minutes into the second spell, Robertson, hobbling, committed a defensive blunder with a feeble tap back to Gillespie but McNab pounced on the ball only to overrun it for the keeper to retrieve.

Former Bay United Sam Messam came in for Nick Robson in the 61st minute and four minutes later cut back a through ball for McNab, who failed to push it past Gillespie's extended left hand.

It wasn't until the 83rd minute that the lanky brother of All Black Liam Messam rose to nod the ball past Gillespie to pull the score back to 3-2 after a speculating cross from Latham.

In the 84th, the hosts were lucky not to concede a goal from a free kick on the right flank after Gillespie parried a Scott Hilliar 8m drive from a goalmouth melee.

It was Gillespie again three minutes later with Bay United gone for all money.

Lovemore and midfielder Alexis Varela locked foreheads like raging bulls but mercifully the ref sorted things out and blew the final whistle seconds later.

WaiBOP coach Peter Smith lamented his troops' "gifting" the first two goals but lauded them for showing what they were capable of in the second spell.

"I think you have to agree that with our second-half performance we should be coming out of the game with something," Smith said.

While starting Messam was an option, Smith said the striker's height gave them another dimension as a substitute when Robertson and Gillespie showed their ascendancy during aerial battles.

"In the first 20 minutes we were sloppy and gave the ball away," the Englishman said, telling his men to toughen up at halftime.

"I think Hawke's Bay will feel lucky after the way they played the second half."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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