Football: Pressure mounts on United

By Shane Hurndell -
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We're back: Saul Halpin (right) is congratulated by Hawke's Bay United teammates. Photo Duncan Brown
We're back: Saul Halpin (right) is congratulated by Hawke's Bay United teammates. Photo Duncan Brown

PUT yesterday down as one of the ugliest in the history of the Hawke's Bay United Football Club.

Coach Brett Angell was sent to the grandstand by referee Hayden McCabe after he protested a penalty 28 minutes into the second half of Thirsty Whale Hawke's Bay United's Stirling Sports Premiership third round 4-2 loss to Team Wellington at Napier's Bluewater Stadium.

While the protest was warranted because Bay keeper Josh Hill hardly touched a Wellington player who fell in the box, Angell should not have let his frustration get the better of him and overdo it.

"You're getting conned all the time," Angell yelled at McCabe before he eventually joined spectators in the corporate boxes.

Tom Jackson succeeded with the penalty to have the visitors ahead, 2-1.

Team Wellington led 1-0 at halftime after striker, English import Ben Harris, capitalised on a superb pass from Joel Stevens.

It was a surprise the visitors weren't further ahead when McCabe blew the halftime whistle. Hawke's Bay United's first half was woeful.

Their first and only shot on goal in the spell came in the 28th minute. Team Wellington finished the half with nine shots on goal.

Hawke's Bay United lacked accuracy and were far too individualistic on attack. Their defence should have been more in your face than it was.

The hosts started the second half in similar fashion. Wrong options were being taken on attack and they seldom made three passes before possession was turned over.

Things finally clicked in the 66th minute when striker Saul Halpin scored the first of his two goals. Two minutes after Jackson beat Hill with his penalty, Halpin scored a cracker in the 70th minute when he curled the ball around the wall from a direct free kick.

The soft goal Hawke's Bay United conceded to Nicolas Zambrano in the 88th minute summed up the hosts' day. Cameron Howieson's 89th minute goal was a cruel blow because United's second half was a big improvement on their first 45 minutes.

They made six shots on goal, one fewer than the visitors and displayed more urgency on defence. If Halpin, 25, who is in his second season with United was delighted about scoring two goals against the defending champions who he played for last summer, he certainly didn't show it after the match.

"It's gutting. We got ourselves back into the game twice and we've got nothing to show for it. We've got to get things right for next week and get some points on the table ... it's those points which matter," Halpin added. Team Wellington captain and former Hawke's Bay United centre back Bill Robertson, who marshalled his troops with class and authority, admitted his side arrived at the park desperate for the three points after two losses.

"We were unlucky last week and you were right ... we should have had more goals after our first half today. But it was nice to see all our hard work pay off and we showed a lot of character after Hawke's Bay had started to get some momentum with their two equalisers," Robertson added.

Angell felt his team were well below par and could have done more to control the play after getting back in to the game.

"It wasn't a good result and I don't think it was a good performance, I thought we were really poor today. We had a 15-minute spell in the second half when we equalised and looked quite threatening but it was the first time that we actually had any link-up play. But, when you're not playing well, if you're structurally strong that will help and I don't think our game maintenance at 2-all was very good."

Team Wellington coach Jose Figueira's grin was a beauty.

"We're delighted to kick-start our season. We didn't have the ideal start with two losses but the boys are believing in what we're doing and there's not going to be many teams that come to Hawke's Bay and pick up some points. It was a really tough task today but I thought we thoroughly deserved it."

Other games at the weekend saw Tasman United and Wellington Phoenix Under-20s draw 1-all in the capital on Saturday, Southern United and Waitakere United drew 2-all in Auckland, Hamilton Wanderers scored a home 4-0 win against Eastern Suburbs and Auckland City and Canterbury United drew 0-all in the other game in Auckland yesterday.

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