The high fives, back slaps and bear hugs returned to the village in Hastings after the Havelock North Wanderers secured another three crucial points in a bid to stave off relegation in their debut season of the premier winter league.

The last-placed Wanderers had made their intentions clear from the opening whistle to grind down Wellington United 4-2 on a balmy winter's day at Guthrie Park in round 11 of the Ultra Football Central League.

The Ethan Dent-captained went up 2-1 against the youthful fourth-placed visitors into the changing rooms at halftime but returned to show they are capable of shutting out games, as opposed to the previous Saturday when they let off the hook second-placed Stop Out Sports Club in the 2-1 loss.

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Despite the sunbathed pitch and a crisp passing game, albeit on a sticky surface, United were unable to stamp their supremacy on an equally predominantly youthful Havelock North.

The conspicuous difference was that the host players were physically stronger on the ball while and scrapped for 50-50 possession.

While the Wanderers' miners have commendably kept up the relentless attack at the coal face , it was the defenders who showed cohesion, vision and commitment today.

The blue and golds were guilty, more than Wellington, of giving away a rash of silly fouls but referee Jason Marshall stopped play to warn Dent of the consequences. Nevertheless, the hosts could argue the stop-start affair was an effective ploy in breaking any rhythm the visitors attempted to build.

United's sin was falling foul of the flags of referees' assistants, Dave Mason and Liam O'Rorke.

Wanderers centreback Kurtis Maney said they were delighted to eke out their victory but also function more like a unit after concerted efforts since the pre-season to establish that harmony.

"There was a lot of chat with the back six. That was the biggest thing because when you chat with them they start doing their job," said Maney, mindful that youngsters weren't as vocal as seasoned players.

The second-year Eastern Institute of Technology sport and recreation student marshalled the defenders to keep the speedy Wellington foragers at bay.


The 19-year-old said the opposition players, who are a feeder club to A-League campaigners Wellington Phoenix, trained daily but the odd marginally older players had worked in the villagers' favour in the physicality stakes.

Maney said the Chris Greatholder and Dion Adams-coached side trained on the sticky surface here and that too had given them an advantage.

Latest signing, winger Josh Murphy, of Napier, who made his debut as a substitute after transferring from Miramar Rangers, slotted into the team like he belonged there. The teenager provided impetus on the flank and made some well-judged crosses into the stock exchange on attack.

Havelock North Wanderers import striker Gagame Feni tries to slip the ball past Wellington United goalkeeper Zac Jones at Guthrie Park today. Photo/Paul Taylor
Havelock North Wanderers import striker Gagame Feni tries to slip the ball past Wellington United goalkeeper Zac Jones at Guthrie Park today. Photo/Paul Taylor

Solomon Islands import striker Gagame Feni also made more crucial passes and intelligently killed time to wait for the deep-sitting cavalry to arrive when he found himself isolated many times on attack despite losing possession.

Again, the persistent long balls for some Feni magic was blatantly obvious but, it seems, Wellington had done their homework to station speedy backs on him.

The Wanderers struck in just the second minute from Kenny Willox after winger Liam Shackleton worked the ball down the left flank, beating Benjamin Waine and sweeper/captain Samuel Philip, to find Jorge Akers who found the goal scorer for a crisp finish.

It was 2-0 in the 20th minute when Willox became provider, curling a ball recycled following a freekick to unleash Feni. The roving striker wrong footed two defenders before drilling it past United goalkeeper Zac Jones.

However, the visitors kept their composure to reap the rewards in the 34th minute from a counterattack when Oliver Whyte finished off an 8m assignment thanks to some constructive passes between Waine and Owen Smith.

A vociferous Havelock North goalkeeper, Shaun Peta, had sung the chorus to the "don't overload" (bunch on one side of the field) anthem before the opposition had pilfered the ball in their defensive third but to no avail.

A minute before halftime, Willox picked up a yellow card for tripping Smith surging into the danger zone.

The second spell was going to be a test of stamina in the heat and Aker's lazy foot from behind on Waine earned him a yellow card, amid howls of protest from the opposition, in the 54th minute.

Temple responded with a flurry of substitutions to arrest sluggishness with Smith making way for Henry Hamilton in the 59th minute.

It was Havelock North's turn to howl at the ref, after Oskar van Hattum tackled a player from behind, and succeeded in the 62nd minute.

Three minutes later the Wanderers extended the lead to 3-1 from a calm Murphy pitch-wedge shot over keeper Jones on the far post after Shackleton fed Feni who dribbled and almost lost the ball in a Ronan Wynne tackle but recovered smartly to flick the pass to the goal scorer.

Temple again went to his bench, this time injecting Liam Moore and Oliver Valentine into leftback and left midfield positions, respectively.

But it was centre-mid Dent who injected some urgency in Wellington's campaign with a goal, 4-1, from inside the 18m box after three earlier attempts were thwarted in the 74th minute.

A minute later Greatholder rung his first change, pulling out workhorse Shackleton and planting a more lanky Che Jesson-Bentley on the right wing with a defensive portfolio.

Waine got a brace, 4-2, in the 78th minute from a concerted drive on the right flank although the build-up was shrouded in controversy after a player had inadvertently tripped Maney who had turned to retreat on defence not far from the sideline. Referee Marshall didn't buy into Havelock North's angry appeals.

A calm player/coach Greatholder, sitting out matches while recovering from concussion, took off Dent in the 83rd minute to use Oliver Chapman's fresh legs. Defender Campbell Whitmore slipped on the captain's armband.

Havelock North Wanderers midfielder Jorge Akers slips past a Wellington United opponent at Guthrie Park. Photo/Paul Taylor
Havelock North Wanderers midfielder Jorge Akers slips past a Wellington United opponent at Guthrie Park. Photo/Paul Taylor

A dejected Philip said his men had squandered chances and were guilty of making sloppy passes.

"We also had a lack concentration in the back and we were punished for four or five shots with four of them going in," he lamented.

The skipper agreed they should have muscled up a bit more on the ball and they also were lacking urgency.

"The pitch was long but it suited the game that they played," he said, revealing the lumpy ground slowed down the pace of the game made it difficult to pass the ball.

However, a circumspect Philip said it wasn't an excuse because Wellington needed to adapt.

The 18-year-old said he was the oldest in his side so physicality was an issue.

"These boys [Wanderers] are used to men's football and bring physicality. More often than not we match it but today I think a bit of complacency cost us.

"At the end of the day we just didn't have enough pride or heart because we were getting beaten for the second ball every time," he said, adding his players needed to take a hard look at themselves in training next week.

Temple, he said, didn't say much at the break because the players were doing the job on the field and knew what was required of them.

The villagers remain last on the table on an inferior goal average but are on equal nine points with Karori, who had kicked off at 5.45pm against Wellington Olympic at Wakefield Park today.

League leaders Thirsty Whale Napier City Rovers host Miramar at Park Island, Napier, in a 2pm kick off tomorrow.