Hanging perilously close to the relegation zone, Rotorua United await the results of Tauranga Boys College's two catch-up games to find out if they will play Premiership football next season.

The bottom two out of the 12 Premiership teams will be relegated to the Championship. Papamoa are already heading down, having failed to pick up a win in 22 games this season.

That left Rotorua United and Tauranga Boys battling it out to avoid the drop. United remain three points ahead after a loss to Matamata in their final game of the season, at Neil Hunt Park yesterday, meaning if Tauranga Boys can win one of their two catch-up games their superior goal difference will see them finish ahead.

United were in with a chance for much of the game against third-placed Matamata, but having lost a player to a second yellow card early on they ran out of gas in the final 10 minutes.


The scores were locked at 0-all at half time. Matamata were playing the more fluent game, with a lot of movement off the ball and quick accurate passing. However, United were quick to launch into counter attacks and looked dangerous whenever they turned the ball over.

Fifteen minutes into the second half Matamata's Jasom Khatkar, who had made the step up from the reserve grade as an injury replacement, broke the deadlock with a well-taken goal.

PACE: Rotorua United's Callum Donlon races after the ball. PHOTO/BEN FRASER
PACE: Rotorua United's Callum Donlon races after the ball. PHOTO/BEN FRASER

United never stopped fighting though and with 15 minutes left to play striker Jason Walker, easily the side's top scorer this season, scored an opportunistic equaliser.

The ball was put through for him to run on to but was hit with too much power. The Matamata goalkeeper came out to intercept it but couldn't control the ball. It popped out to Walker who ran on to it and slotted the ball into an empty net. Game on.

Matamata's passing game was beginning to wear down the United defenders and with minutes left on the clock striker Dayne Willemsen scored the winner.

He ran on to a through ball into the goal box, controlled it expertly and poked the ball past the goalkeeper to score, giving his side a 2-1 victory.

United coach Ian Walker said it was always going to be a tough match, but he was pleased with his side's effort.

"The team played really well, I couldn't be more proud of the boys. Down to 10 men, they played with a lot of heart - that's how you want to finish a season, all giving 110 per cent.

"Credit to Matamata, they deserve to be where they are on the table, but when you're down to 10 men it's always going to be a tough ask," Walker said.

He said the next fortnight would be a nervous wait for Tauranga Boys' results.

"They might stay up. If they can get a win or two then they deserve it," he said.

Matamata coach Paul Richardson said "three points is three points".

"It was pretty scrappy, we've still got a few games to play and we can still finish second, so plenty to play for.

"We had our striker Chris Walker, our leading goal scorer, drop out injured just today. So we had some reserves playing and they all played really, really well," Richardson said.

He said United put in an admirable effort during the game.

"They've had a tough season and I know other results can send them down. It's never nice to be the team that puts them in trouble, but we have to do what's best for us.

"If they do go down it's a chance for Ian to rebuild and I know he's more than capable."