WaiBOP United handed Team Wellington their second loss of the ASB Premiership on Saturday, with a come-from-behind 2-1 win at John Kerkhof Park in Cambridge that knocked the capital side out of top spot as well as keeping us well in the play-off mix.
All three goals came in the first period as Team Wellington started well with Luis Corrales giving the visitors the fifth minute lead. But Craig Wylie’s deflected shot pulled WaiBOP level after the half hour mark and Federico Marquez put the home side ahead right on half time when put through one-on-one with Team Wellington ‘keeper Michael O’Keeffe.
The visitors will rue a missed spot kick shortly before Marquez’s strike which, if converted, would have at least provided the point they needed to stay top.
The result, combined with Auckland City’s 1-0 win over Canterbury United earlier on Saturday, sees Team Wellington fall into second place with the defending champions back on top of the standings for the first time since October. WaiBOP move into fifth place, behind fourth-placed Wanderers SC – who play at Hawke’s Bay United on Sunday – on goal difference.
The visitors took a fifth minute lead when Michael Gwyther released Corrales behind the WaiBOP defensive unit and the Team Wellington striker made no mistake, nudging the ball beyond goalkeeper Danyon Drake before rolling it home into the unguarded net.
But despite going a goal behind, we carried the more regular goal threat in the first period with a number of chances to square the ledger.
O’Keeffe stood tall in the Team Wellington goal, denying several WaiBOP attacks including a one-on-one with Marquez and a double save from Van Elia and Wade Molony. After the goal, Team Wellington’s best moment in the opening 30 minutes was via a quick counter which eventually saw Jarrod Smith head narrowly wide.
But seven minutes before the break, WaiBOP did manage to find a way past O’Keeffe. Chad Coombes earned a foul on the edge of the Team Wellington area and Wylie’s resulting free kick took a huge deflection off the wall, leaving O’Keeffe stranded and the ball in the back of the net.
The visitors missed a golden opportunity retake lead three minutes before the break after Ian Hogg was up-ended in the WaiBOP penalty area. Cole Peverley struck the resulting spot kick but Drake got down to his left to save.
Team Wellington paid for that miss three minutes later when, right on halftime, we went 2-1 up with Marquez through one-on-one against O’Keeffe for the second time in the match and this time he slid the ball home.
An open start to the second began with Smith driving into the box for the visitors before being thwarted and that signalled what was to follow with regular action in both penalty areas.
Gwyther and Cory Chettleburgh saw chances come and go while O’Keeffe was again in the thick of it, stretching to deny substitute Jarrod Young before the youngster later hit the cross bar from the edge of the area with 13 minutes to go.
Corrales headed a cross over the WaiBOP goal in the final 10 minutes but that was as close the visitors got to a leveller in the dying stages.
WaiBOP assistant coach Paul Drake – who took charge of the match due to head coach Peter Smith’s one game touchline ban – saluted his side’s effort, saying the group rebounded superbly from last week’s loss to Auckland City.
“[We’re] very happy with today’s performance,” Drake said, “I thought we took a lot out of last week. Okay we lost, but the boys bounced back. On another day we could have been four or five up but full credit to them, they defended well and we did also.”
Drake said the platform for the result was laid by WaiBOP’s experienced men, including captain Aaron Scott and midfielder Robbie Greenhalgh. This allowed the front runners to express themselves, with Marquez and Jones in the thick of the action while the team also got a boost from their youthful substitutes in the second period.
“They created a lot for us, [but] we didn’t finish. Feddy probably could have had a hat-trick in the first half but he stuck one away before halftime.
“It was Nate Kinney’s debut and he came in as an 18 year old and proved he is just as good at national league level. Reid [Drake] showed us what he wants and Jarrod Young as well and that’s what WaiBOP is about; letting the youth have a crack at this level.
“For us to get into the playoffs we need to win every game and next week we go to Wanderers full of confidence.”