We have drawn our latest pre-season match, against Waitakere United, at a wind-blown Ngahue Reserve, in what was an entertaining, competitive and open encounter.
Coach Peter Smith was pleased with his team’s work, particularly after his side found themselves two goals down after a slow first 20 minutes. The conditions had a big influence on the shape of the match, with Waitakere the beneficiaries of the heavy breeze during the first half. This allowed them to press forward with energy and purpose, although Smith would have been disappointed with the manner in which we let the two goals in.
We improved as the half wore on, combining better through midfield and looking to bring the two wide players, Mark Jones and Wade Molony, into the game more. Jones, in particular, looked threatening and was upended several times, the last of which saw a yellow card shown to the Waitakere offender.
We pulled a goal back a couple of minutes before the break after an incisive attack saw Ryan Tinsley shoot home from close range for his first WaiBOP United goal.
The second half saw us in the ascendancy from the off. Molony had a great opportunity to level things up almost immediately, but his outstretched leg couldn’t keep a teasing Federico Marquez cross under the cross bar less than a minute after the restart. Soon after we had a good penalty shout when a Waitakere defender appeared to handle the ball in the box, but it was waved away as unintentional.
Smith made only a handful of second half changes, with Louie Caunter replacing Zac Speedy in goal, while Dylan Stansfield and Maksim Manko came on as attacking options, all just after the hour mark.
After coming close to equalising several times and looking threatening from set-pieces, it was Manko who finally netted our second when he slid the ball home from close range with less than ten minutes left.
Caunter was called on to make a couple of sharp saves as Waitakere broke dangerously but the match ended all square.
“I was relatively pleased with the performance,” said Smith after the match. “Once we started to show a bit of belief in what we were trying to do, we started to play and you saw a different team after the first 20 minutes. We probably should have won the game in the second half. The conditions played a part in that, sure, but I was pleased with the way we stuck to the structure, stuck to what we’ve been working on and trusted each other.”
The team is shaping up well for the start of the ASB Premiership season. “There’s always work to do but today’s second half performance and the way that we moved the ball was a real positive,” said Smith.
Smith was honest about the lack of second half changes. “This was a game in which we were looking for a performance. We know what a lot of the lads can do so today was about consolidating on the work we’ve done,” he explained. “I’m happy with where we’re at a couple of weeks out from our opener against Team Wellington.”
WaiBOP United team sheet: Speedy (Caunter 63′); Hilliar, Mitchell, Luque, Viera; Molony (Stansfield 65′), Varela (Pratt 87′), Tinsley, Jones; Evans, Marquez (Manko 66′).
Goal scorer: Ryan Tinsley 43′, Maksim Manko 82′.