It was two for two for the Versatile Wanganui City FC 1sts heading into next weekend's big derby with GJ Gardner Homes Whanganui Athletic Reserves after a 6-3 disposal of Massey University Reserves at Wembley Park today.

The three-goal winning margin in the YORB Horizons Premiership matchup was a little flattering to the visitors, with City making a couple of defensive errors at the back in conceding two second half goals.

Otherwise the veterans in double goal scorers Kyle Graham-Luke and Anthony Bell, the latter now on six in two games, along with Eli Fleming, showed the youngsters on both sides how to think on your feet while also keeping space in your head to anticipate where a team mate is going.

City got away plenty of fine passes on the open break into Massey's back field, while their cross kicks into the box were upgraded from fairly accurate to pinpoint as the match wore on.


Ironically, after giving up the opening goal to Jamie Wilsher in just Massey's second attacking opportunity, it was good fortune rather than superior skill which saw City take a lead they never relinquished.

After 4-5 really handy passing exchanges and accurate cross kicks into the box had yielded no reward, City equalised when Graham-Luke was 'Johnny on the Spot' after a deflection off a defender's leg came to him with the Massey keeper now out of position for his left-side tap in.

Not long after, Latham Berry fired a great right-side cross kick down onto Bell's foot in front of goal for a simple tap, only for the goal keeper to make the fundamental error of not getting his body down in behind his hands, with the fumble making it 2-1.

There was no luck, just dogged determination, in City's go-away third goal when both Berry and then Joshua Rod, who had a good first half, fired hard kicks into the Massey keeper's hands, with Graham-Luke charging up to claim the third deflection and send it home.

Defenders and attackers alike go up for the ball.
Defenders and attackers alike go up for the ball.

Massey were not pleased with City's fourth score after halftime when Flynn Kester-Hogan gave a great pass to Bell, who was partially fouled while setting up his strike, but buried the right-to-left shot anyway while the referee was blowing the penalty whistle, before opting to award the goal through playing advantage.

There was no arguing with the fifth goal as Fleming produced a rip-snorter of a long range cross kick, which Max Davidson latched onto perfectly in front of goal, as the Massey defenders could not anticipate him dashing 15m into the box from the opposite side of the field.

Admiring their own handiwork, City went to sleep straight afterwards as Ben Walkley missed a fairly straight forward pass back near the goal mouth and Massey's towering Robert Gulley took advantage - striking the timber on his first attempt but swooping on the deflection for 5-2.

Walkley would certainly redeem himself, as like Fleming he produced a fantastic cross kick from deep on the far touchline and this time Kester-Hogan slid between defenders and keeper to restore the four-goal lead.


Co-coach Kelvin Francis ran on his young bench for the final 15 minutes, with Massey getting a consolation score when a high bouncing ball was collected by the diving keeper, but not before his hands landed past the goal line.

While not perfect, Francis was happy with the hit out, given his side had gone out to use a different structure from their opening game, along with instructions to improve their player-to-player communications.

"It's a good start, we changed the shape today, because we're flush for backs.

"As the game wore on, it got better.

"Ten players are from Wanderers last year, with the five from the Fed Cup team, it's pleasing [they're developing]."

The idea is for the rookies to learn by osmosis from the likes of Bell and Graham-Luke, who can sprint off into gaps knowing the pass they want will soon be appearing right in front of them.

"That will come with the more time they spend on the pitch with these guys," said Francis.

"The engine room had another big day."

The team was delighted to pick up a new sponsor in NZCS, with every little bit helping the amateur clubs in his post Covid-19 world.