Loaded WaiBOP United has been defeated 3-2 by Team Wellington in their round 1 ASB Premiership match, played at Hamilton’s Gower Park. Saul Halpin’s 89th minute goal won the game for the visitors after WaiBOP had led twice during the game.
After a cagey opening the game burst into life when centre-half, Adam Luque, headed home a Marc Evans corner to put WaiBOP United 1-0 up in the 15th minute. Federico Marquez almost doubled the lead three minutes later but his curler was well blocked by Scott Basalaj in the Team Wellington goal. With the rain teeming in Team Wellington got back on level teams when Andy Bevin was given just enough space to drive the ball past Zac Speedy.
The second half was end to end, with the slippery conditions leading to an open encounter. Both keepers were well worked and the defences did well to delay any further scoring until quite late. Before then, WaiBOP United was denied two penalties when first Marc Evans then Federico Marquez were bundled over in the box.
But the flood gates finally opened with eleven minutes remaining when Ryan Tinsley played in Mark Jones, who kept his composure to fire past Basalaj.
A minute later the scores were level again. Team Wellington pressed forward straight from the restart and substitute Ben Harris knocked the ball home.
Then came the twist when Halpin coolly claimed the winner after Team Wellington broke from midfield, but only after Luque had been clattered mid-pitch. A lengthy period of added time was played, but the hosts couldn’t snatch an equaliser of their own, even though substitute Stephen Hoyle headed narrowly wide from a late free kick.
Head coach, Peter Smith, was pleased with his team’s performance, if not the result. “The lads can’t be faulted for their attitude and commitment and the way we played,” he said after the match. “They stuck to the game plan and the performance dictated that we should have won the game but the TV footage will tell you otherwise.
“It was obviously quite a tough game between two good sides. I thought when we got our noses in front that was it, but it wasn’t to be. And it wasn’t because of the way we played.”
Loaded WaiBOP United 2-3 Team Wellington
WB: Adam Luque 15’, Mark Jones 79’.
TW: Andy Bevin 31’, Ben Harris 80’, Saul Halpin 89’.
Loaded WaiBOP United: Speedy; Hilliar, Probert, Luque, Cochran; Varela (Ilich 74’), Tinsley (S. Hoyle 90+5’); Molony, Marquez, Jones; Evans (Manko 74’). Subs not used: Caunter, C. Mitchell.
Team Wellington: Basalaj; Hobbs, Robertson, Musa, Neil; Halpin (Villa 90 + 1), Bale (Harris 58’), Peverley, Barcia; Corrales (Gulley 90+3), Bevin. Subs not used: Carr, Higgins.