A lacklustre first half contrasted with an entertaining second spell at Newtown Park on Saturday as Loaded WaiBOP United scored a stoppage time winner for a dramatic 4-3 revival victory over the Wellington Phoenix.
The Phoenix scored two goals in quick succession straight after the halftime break via New Zealand age-group representatives Logan Rogerson and Andrew Blake, before we came roaring back with three unanswered goals of our own via a Ryan Tinsley penalty and goals from Stephen Hoyle and Mario Ilich giving us a 3-2 lead entering the final 20 minutes.
But the hosts scored their third and final goal through Louis Evans via a set piece move only to be undone at the death by Tinsley’s second of the game.
Loaded WaiBOP coach Peter Smith was happy with the work his team put in with the ball in the final third but was frustrated by some defensive lapses.
“The way we performed in an attacking sense was good,” Smith said, “however to lose three very soft goals when you’ve dominated the game is a wee bit frustrating.
“But we stuck to the task and got the three points. Today was about getting the three points, that was the main thing, to keep pushing for the playoffs.”
Smith said the team responded superbly once they found themselves in a 2-0 hole early in the second period.
“When we were 2-0 down we probably played the best football we’ve played all season. The way we knocked it about in the attacking third and the composure we showed was top class.”
The two sides traded half-chances through the first 20 minutes of the match, first as the ball wouldn’t sit well for Joe Bell following a corner, and the second as WaiBOP caused the young Phoenix defence all sorts of issues before they scrambled it out for a corner.
The first real opportunity of the match occurred in the 30th minute, when Tinsley beat the offside trap and was in one on one against Lewis Italiano, but couldn’t place his shot on goal.
However, if the first half was a half of wasted chances and goalmouth scrambles for us, the second half started as a clinic on how to finish chances. Unfortunately it was the Phoenix who showed us how it should be done.
Rogerson got the first goal of the match 37 seconds after the restart. He managed to control the ball under pressure from both centre backs, turn on the spot and race towards goal, before rolling the ball past Louie Caunter in goal and into the back of the net.
Just 50 seconds later, the Phoenix found themselves two goals to the good, after James McGarry crossed in from the left flank and found Blake unmarked on the edge of the six yard box, who made no mistake in tapping the ball home.
We were given a way back into the match in the 51st minute, after Wade Maloney was fouled inside the area. Tinsley stepped up and made no mistake in converting the penalty, sending substitute ‘keeper Oliver Sail the wrong way.
Hoyle pulled the match back to 2-2 in the 64th minute as he turned on the spot and drove the ball across Sail and into the net. Five minutes later, we took the lead courtesy of Ilich’s strike; placed to perfection to the bottom right corner of goal.
However, the Phoenix were not finished yet. After winning a free kick near the corner flag, McGarry passed the ball to Singh at the top of the box, who chipped the ball onto the head of Louis Evans at the far post who headed past Caunter.
The match ended in controversy as we scored via Tinsley in the 96th minute, despite the assistant referee’s flag being raised. However the referee waved away the flag and the goal stood, giving us the three points our playoff aspirations needed.
The results sees WaiBOP remain in fifth place in the ASB Premiership standings, now just two points adrift of Hawke’s Bay United in fourth place. The Wellington Phoenix sit in seventh, five points further back and one ahead of bottom side Southern United.
With thanks to NZ Football.