They didn't return with any points but Havelock North Wanderers soccer team have made incremental gains in breaking their goal drought.

Liam Shackleton created history when he scored the Building King-sponsored villagers' first goal in the 51st minute of the Ultra Football Central League match against Lower Hutt City FC in Wellington yesterday.

The Wanderers lost the round four game 5-2 after trailing 2-0 at halftime at Fraser Park.
Havelock North player/coach Chris Greatholder revealed they fielded two Solomon Island import players, striker Gagame Feni and centre midfielder Ian Paia, after their registrations were cleared late on Friday.

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Feni made it 4-2 in the 82nd minute before the hosts had the final say.

"It was becoming an issue, I guess," said Greatholder of the need for his players to find the net in their debut season in the premier winter soccer league, after they gained promotion in the umpteenth hour when Team Taranaki withdrew due to player dearth in their province.

The Blue and Golds had created numerous opportunities and it seemed liked another frustrating game was in the offing as they struck the crossbar and uprights as well as missing the target a couple of times.

"We scored twice in the end there so quite a few good things came out of the game," he said.

Greatholder said they were concentrating on myriad facets of their game — such as midfield function, transition, turning chances into goals and not conceding too many goals — so it was satisfying to tick off another box.

The Wanderers played into a stiff wind in the first, he said, so Lower Hutt made the most of it against an opposition whose lion's share of players had not encountered an artificial surface before.

"[Napier City] Rovers and Hawke's Bay United, it seems, couldn't get a grasp of the pitches down there for years so, slowly but surely, we'd started to perform on it yesterday," he said of the Thirsty Whale-sponsored Bay campaigners.

All that, Greatholder hastened top add, didn't detract from the fact that Lower Hutt City had scored a stunning goal from a freekick although it was a soft one from the visitors' perspective.


"That hurt us and they were 2-0 up about after 20 minutes, I think, so from there onwards o the first half we were the better team because we should have scored."

About 20 minutes into the second spell Havelock North had maintained that ascendancy and should have been at least tied with Lower Hutt, he felt.

The visitors earned six corner kicks to Lower Hutt's eight to show they were in the game for good part of the 90-plus minutes.

"The 3-1 lead they had was a big blow to us because we should have been winning the game at that stage."

The Wanderers had pulled it back to 4-2 and conceded the final goal on a counterattack while throwing the kitchen sink at the hosts in the dying minutes.

Havelock North Wanderers will be looking at how they can tighten their defence after conceding five goals yesterday. Photo/file
Havelock North Wanderers will be looking at how they can tighten their defence after conceding five goals yesterday. Photo/file

"It's a bit harsh the scoreline but our individual defending moments were poor. We just weren't good enough so we have a lot of work to do.

"There were no hard-luck stories in the key moments of the game when they had the opportunities they converted them all and we had them we didn't and that's what makes it football, I guess."

Lower Hutt's Jack Imray scored a hattrick of goals and Jared Cunniff got a brace for the Steve Coleman-coached hosts.

Che Jensen-Bentley had picked a yellow card in the second spell after a collision with the opposition goalkeeper while going up for a header.

"The referee deemed it as a late challenge," Greatholder said.

The Wanderers started with Nick Hayward as goalkeeper, resting first-choice gloveman Shaun Peta.

"Nick conceded five goals but he played a very good game. He was very tidy so we're pretty pleased with that."

In other round four games yesterday, Wairarapa United burst Wellington United's bubble after edging them out 3-2.

Stop Out Sports Club also pipped newcomers Integration Works Waterside Karori 2-1 while Wellington Olympic had the measure of Miramar Rangers at 3-1.

The Wanderers host Wairarapa at Guthrie Park, Havelock North, in a
Greatholder said it was going to be a juicy league with the big boys knocking off each other.

"I couldn't pick who's going to win the league at the moment so ... I'm not sure if Wairarapa would have seen that [win] as surprise or not," he said, mindful Wairarapa would be upbeat about hitting the highway back home with points and goals.

He agreed the undefeated Rovers were looking sharp with players looking comfortable "in and out of possession".

"Every team in the league's got their own story so the Rovers have been sniffing silverware and they've made decisions on what's best for their group.

"You know Western [Suburbs] have got their own story and Wellington United have theirs and Wairarapa have their own quite unique story down there with how Phil [Keinzley] has gone about things."

Greatholder was intending to watch the game between the Bill Robertson-coached Blues and Advanced Electrical Western Suburbs in the 2pm kick off at Bluewater Stadium, Park Island, today.