Football: Spoils or not, Rovers can't be losers

By Anendra Singh

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YES? NOOO! Josh Stevenson reckons it's a penalty but Petone defenders think otherwise. PHOTO/Paul Taylor
YES? NOOO! Josh Stevenson reckons it's a penalty but Petone defenders think otherwise. PHOTO/Paul Taylor

You could, to employ an oxymoron, say the Napier City Rovers football team are in that subliminal chaotic state of normalcy.

You know, the promise of a stellar season has been there most of the time but things just aren't happening fast enough for the fans, especially if it's the Lotto Central League.

The Bluewater-sponsored side have maintained a top-four position on the league table for a lion's share of their campaign this winter.

The third-placed Napier play sixth-placed Petone FC at the astroturf Memorial Park, Wellington, in a 1pm kick-off today in what is expected to be freezing conditions following dumpings of snow in certain parts of the capital yesterday.

The Bill Robertson-coached Blues have a Chatham Cup (national knockout) match against Central United in Auckland the following Sunday.

Add to that feat their unblemished run this season at Bluewater Stadium, Park Island, with the O'Brien Challenge Shield up for grabs and you start getting a sharper picture of what is at stake for captain Danny Wilson and his men.

It must be a beautiful nightmare but, alas, one that will come to an end in about five weeks.

Whether the Rovers will hold aloft the silverware is a moot point but what no one can dispute is that it'll be far from a mediocre season.

No one can point a finger at Robertson or Wilson to question their commitment and sense of enterprise.

Blues manager Malcolm Wilson hastens to point out the Blues have had their share of wobbles.

"We started off with a 5-1 defeat at Miramar [April 12]," Wilson says, emphasising it should never have happened although that won't be put to test at Park Island until August 31.

A 4-2 loss away to Wellington Olympic followed on May 3 but the Rovers redeemed themselves with a 5-4 extra-time Chatham Cup victory at home on June 2 before the 2-2 league stalemate against the Greeks at the same venue on July 20.

"Bill's always telling us it's our best 45 minutes of the season because we were 1-1 at halftime and we should have been up by five goals," Wilson says.

The other 4-1 loss came away, at the hands of Western Suburbs, and the rematch at Park Island will be the last catch-up game of the season.

"We've missed a few chances when we could have closed the games."

Fundamentally the Blues haven't thrown in the towel on winning the league either with Western Suburbs and the Greeks sitting seven points adrift of leaders Miramar Rangers.

"Bill's also said all season we'll win the cup so we're going forward.

"It'll be a terrific game against Central United and we're underdogs but we don't mind."

He and Robertson are united in their view that dropping striker Sam Messam from the squad won't come back to bite them in the business end of their campaign after Andy Bevin jetted back to the West Virginia University yesterday.

Welsh import Miles John and Wilson's elder son, Stuart, have the credentials to play up front although the former has still not completed his therapy for concussion.

"Stuart's played as a utility this season but he's been a golden boot in two out of his five seasons so he knows where the goal is."

Computer Care Pacific Premiership Rovers midfielder Logan Bensemann shimmies on to the bench with Bevin's departure.

Bensemann, 17, who played 20 minutes away against Tawa, is there as a defender.

Phil Dol's injury woes continue after shoulder surgery. He has a groin injury and the dire need to extract four wisdom teeth add to his pain and pocket.

The Blues' major concern is risking English import Ryan Tinsley and teenager striker Angus Kilkolly who have four yellow cards each in their bank. One more and they'll be out of the cup equation next Sunday so they may remain on the bench today.

Consequently Robertson is likely to inject Serb import Andrija Ilic and Oli Chapman in the engine as starters.

Stu Wilson and brother Danny will be at the coalface, with the latter shuffling up from the defence.

Petone coach Graham Little is banking on 12 players although captain of the day David Lane is playing his 250th club game while golden boot leader Paul Whitmarsh will be racking up his 200th match.

"We've got enough young guys so with a two-year plan we want to be in the top three or four," Little says, after losing three seasoned players to Australia.

Petone have done well against top sides and lost to only one team at the bottom.

"Napier's 4-2 win was our biggest defeat and we conceded a goal in the last minute," he says, adding the ref's decision had changed that game.

Little says club loyalty is tested these days with the young gravitating to top clubs to savour success.

However, he intends to change that by making Petone an elite club that young will want to gravitate to in the city.

Asked what the weather is like, he replies: "Freezing. It'll be 9 degrees tomorrow."

MATCH DETAILS

WHO: Petone FC v Bluewater Napier City Rovers.

WHEN: Today, 1pm kick-off.

WHERE: Petone Memorial Park.

REFEREE: John Rowbury.

AR1/AR2: David Beattie/Andrew Melville.

PETONE: 1 Daniel Clarke (GK), 2 Craig Alderdice, 3 Logan Archer, 6 David Lane (c), 8 George Milne, 9 Paul Whitmarsh, 11 James Hill, 12 Anu Singe, 17 Benn Dawson, 20 Josh Ebert, 21 Hamish Smylie, Simon Rippon (RGK).

Coach: Graham Little.

Manager: Dan Worthington.

NAPIER CITY ROVERS: 1 Jonty Underhill (GK), 2 Josh Anstis, 3 Daniel Ball, 4 Bayley Chadderton, 5 Bill Robertson, 7 Matt Hastings, 8 Stu Wilson, 10 Andrija Ilic, 11 Logan Bensemann, 12 Oli Chapman, 14 Josh Stevenson, 15 Ryan Tinsley, 16 Danny Wilson (c), 18 Angus Kilkolly, 20 Chris Greatholder, Kyle Baxter (RGK).

Coach/player: Bill Robertson.

Manager: Malcolm Wilson.

OTHER GAMES

Today:

Miramar Rangers v Wellington Olympic: 2.30pm at David Farrington Park.

Western Suburbs v Upper Hutt City: 2.30pm at Endeavour Park.

Palmerston North Marist v Lower Hutt City AFC: 2.45pm at Memorial Park, P Nth.

Wairarapa United v Tawa AFC: 3.30pm, Maidstone Park.

STANDINGS

After rd 17 of the Lotto Central League:

P W D L F A D Pts

Miramar 14 12 0 2 46 24 22 36

W Suburbs 15 9 2 4 42 21 21 29

Rovers 14 9 2 3 37 23 14 29

Olympic 15 9 2 4 41 29 12 29

Wairarapa 15 7 3 5 35 33 2 24

Petone 15 6 3 6 40 32 8 21

PN Marist 15 5 1 9 25 29 -4 16

Lower Hutt 15 3 3 9 20 28 -8 12

Tawa 15 3 0 12 17 49 -32 9

Upper Hutt 15 2 2 11 28 63 -35 8

Golden boot:

14: Paul Whitmarsh (Petone) .

13: Hamish Watson (Wairarapa).

12: Henry Fa'arodo (Miramar).

11: Samuel Mason-Smith (Miramar)

10: Jerram Tuck (PN Marist).

9: Ryan Tinsley (Rovers), Sam Blackburn (Olympic).

8: Elliot Collier (Western Suburbs), Jimmy Haidakis (Olympic), Luis Corrales (Upper Hutt).

- Hawkes Bay Today

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