October 26, 2013Score: 2 – 0
Crown Park, Taupo. Kick-off: 1pm (Friendly)
WaiBOP United have scored a solid pre-season victory over Hawke’s Bay United in what will be seen as an encouraging effort for both players and fans of the new franchise two weeks out from the start of the ASB Premiership.
United head coach, Pete Smith, fielded a regulation 4-4-2 with Masaki Nomoto, Alexis Varela and Mikhail Bredeveldt coming in for the first pre-season starts. Aaron Scott was back from All Whites duty to captain the side. The opening stages of the match were a little scratchy, with Hawke’s Bay managing to force more of the pace, while WaiBOP looked to threaten on the counter.
The back four looked strong, however, and snuffed out the more threatening of Hawke’s Bay’s forays, while Milos Nikolic came close to opening the scoring twice during the opening 45 minutes. His first opportunity, in particular, was very well saved by Hawke’s Bay’s Richard Gillespie.
On 25 minutes Maksim Manko was sent to the bench after he came up firing having been crunched by one of the visiting team’s defenders. With this being a friendly, Manko was replaced by Scott Hilliar for the remainder of the first half, before re-entering the fray.
WaiBOP United appeared to grow in strength and confidence after the break. Bredeveldt showed some nice touches up front while the entire team appeared more cohesive and purposeful. Mark Jones succumbed to what appeared to be a back injury just short of the hour mark and was replaced by Wade Molony. The injury will be a worry for the coaching staff as Jones had put in a good shift wide on the right.
The intensity throughout the match had been high and the only thing it didn’t have – a goal – finally arrived in the 67th minute. Liam Higgins roamed forward to slip home a far post header from a wicked Nikolic free-kick. Five minutes later WaiBOP United had doubled the lead after Manko nudged the ball home following another excellent Nikolic set-piece, this time a corner.
Smith made two more changes immediately after the goal, with Alexis Varela and Shaydon Young making way for Tom Probert and Jack McNab. Reserve keeper, Danyon Drake, came on for Andy McNeil with ten minutes remaining after another impressive outing from the Scot. McNeil had to be sharp early on, but was professional in his work and marshalled his back for so well that he was barely tested during the second half.
This was an important 90 minutes for the side two weeks before they take on Canterbury United. The win was helpful but the performance was key as it was several steps up on the last outing against the Waikato Bay of Plenty All Stars.
WaiBOP United: Andy McNeil (Danyon Drake 8om); Aaron Scott, Masaki Nomoto, Takahiro Yokota, Liam Higgins; Mark Jones (Wade Molony 56m), Alexis Varela (Tom Probert 73m), Maksim Manko (Scott Hilliar 25m, Maksim Manko 45m), Shaydon Young (Jack McNab 73m); Milos Nikolic, Mikhail Bredeveldt. Subs not used: Raymond How, Ben Latham.
Goal scorers: Liam Higgins (67m), Maksim Manko (72m).