• For Napier City Rovers, it was always going to be a defining moment of their Chatham Cup and Central League season so it was imperative to drive home that message to their oppositions.
• The four-time Chatham Cup winners and defending Central League champions showed they meant business when they thumped Western Suburbs 4-1 at Park Island, Napier, today.
Little separated the two teams for the first 16 minutes of the game so it became clear whoever was going to drag Big Mo into their corner in Napier was going to stay alive in the Chatham Cup campaign today.
Thirsty Whale Napier City Rovers did just that with a 4-1 victory at Park Island to book a berth in the quarterfinals of the national football knockout competition.
Therein lies the compelling argument on why the do-or-die format eclipses the round-robin, home-and-away Central League. There was even time for a little comedy in the 72nd minute when Canadian midfielder Patryk Misik brought down referee Matthew Conger for not moving away fast enough, much to the delight of the Bluewater Stadium faithful.
Having drawn first blood, the hosts didn't take their foot off the visitors' throats in the first half to emphasise how much pain they had endured in the league 2-1 loss here in the referee's time in round six of the league on April 28.
The Rovers led 3-1 at halftime and then drove their point home again with another calling card early in the second spell but the talented young guns from the capital city had no answers this time.
Blues player/coach Bill Robertson was immensely proud of his men in adapting a new formation to counter the possession-based game the Suburbs play.
"We've changed our shape today and worked on a few things in training to put a game plan in place to try to stop a good side from doing what they're good at so we're good enough today and the score reflects that," said Robertson, emphasising how hitting the woodwork twice endorsed that dominance.
Switching to a 3-5-2 formation from a 4-3-3 one had paid dividends although the loss of Uruguayan striker Martin Bueno and the unavailability of Solomon Island international pivot Andrew Abba had pre-empted it.
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"We tried to change things to help us both in and out of possession so, obviously, that's worked and we'll reassess what we do for the rest of the season," he said.
The Blues broke the deadlock when captain Fergus Neil smashed the ball in from the far post in the 17th minute after a crossbar deflection from a Liam Schofield attempt on the left flank, making good the initial cross from the right flank.
The Wellingtonians made the grave mistake of counting their stars a little too early and were guilty of watching the ball rather than running out to negate any ensuing threats.
Striker Gavin Hoy had another chance right in front of the goal mouth three minutes later but the ball beat everyone past the upright.
Misik could have extended the margin but Suburbs goalkeeper Frankie Walkington did extremely well to parry the ball after it had deflected off a foot of his defender only for Englishman Jonny McNamara to push the ball wide from an oblique angle in the 24th minute.
Two minutes later centreback Robertson denied Western Suburbs striker Noah Billingsley from equalising only for goalkeeper Joshua Hill to thwart Billingsley again on recycled possession in the 28th minute.
With a spring in their step, the hosts started mounting raids and Hoy joined the party with a crisp worm-burner to extend the lead to 2-0 that Walkington couldn't do much about from inside the box in the 31st minute. The Canadian centre-mid had another chance to inflict a demoralising killer blow to leave the Suburbs reeling a minute later and add to his six-goal tally but the ball beat everyone over the goal line.
Schofield's love affair with the crossbar continued although Walkington had helped it over on the bounce with his fingertips. However, the left wing back got the loudest cheers from the ensuing cornerkick when he planted the ball into the net from the top edge of the 18m box for a 3-0 margin in the 39th minute. It was his first of the season.
But the visitors again showed composure to pull one back, 3-1, from Billingsley in the 43rd minute. If the Blues needed a reminder of the opposition's steely resolve they got it from the striker who coolly collected the ball and ran it back to the centre of the park.
Nevertheless, the pressure mounted on Western Suburbs in the second spell when McNamara made it 4-1 by bringing a through ball from Hoy in the rib of the park, taking on Joshua Rogerson for a foot race before surging into the 18m box to drill it into the corner of the net in the 50th minute. It was the redhead's 10th goal this winter.
Hoy deposited the ball into the net again eight minutes later but referee's assistant, Edward Cook, had his flag up for an offside.
Both sides showed endeavour there after but the onus was always going to be on the Ole Academy boys to lift their intensity a few more notches but, despite some crisp tick-tack passing, there wasn't going to be any fairy-tale endings for them today.
It pleased Robertson that both wing backs, including Neil, had scored from set-piece play to indicate training nights had quality input.
He was hoping that luck of the draw from the hat would offer the Blues another game at home in the cup quarterfinals.
"It'll help the club financially in not having to fly to Christchurch or wherever ... but we're confident we can beat anyone," he said.
Western Suburbs coach Ben Sippola took the defeat on the chin and wished the Rovers all the best in the cup campaign.
"All the credit to Napier because I think they had a game plan and they executed it really well," Sippola said, adding he wouldn't have done anything differently because sometimes it came down to errors and his young charges had made a few costly ones at critical times.
"We play Napier in two weeks at home so we'll give them a challenge," he said of the league leaders playing second-placed Western Suburbs in Wellington.