WaiBOP United has been handed defeat in a competitive and, at times, combative ASB Premiership fixture against Hawke’s Bay United at the Rotorua International Stadium.
Things looked promising during the first 20 minutes, however, as we carried our form of recent weeks into this match. The visitors made it clear they had come to compete with Mark Jones, in particular, an early target.
We got the opener on 14 minutes after Craig Wylie, who had an eventful afternoon, bent home a free kick from just outside the area after a foul on Federico Marquez. The goal underlined our early superiority, but it wasn’t to last.
Hawke’s Bay upped their intensity and came close to scoring several times before they got their equaliser. A minute after being booked, the Bay’s Ross Haviland hammered home a header from a teasing Viktor Lekaj corner on 29 minutes. We could have defended it better but it was an emphatic finish.
After a flat period, where neither side offered much of anything, the visitors popped up with a goal. Facundo Barbero robbed Sam O’Regan of the ball and zeroed in on goal before squaring the ball for Sean Lovemore to slot home the first of his two goals.
A frantic beginning to the second half saw both sides go close before Chad Coombes brought things back level again. His 57th minute shot from the edge of the area finished off fine work from Federico Marquez, who hunted down an almost lost cause, and Jerahl Hughes.
Then things changed for the worse. Before the celebrations had even died down Craig Wylie was shown a straight red card for a crunching challenge on Barbero.
The rearranged side did well for a while, before two goals in three minutes from Lovemore and Ryan Tinsley, finished things off with 15 minutes to go.
Head Coach, Pete Smith, had mixed feeling after the match. “We started well and deservedly went ahead, but then went off the boil,” he said after the match. “Hawke’s Bay came at us but I thought we could have done much better on the two goals we gave up. We came back at them after the break and scored a good goal, but then the red card made it tough. We maybe weren’t quite mature enough to hold on for a point.”
The team now heads into the Christmas break with work to do and the clear challenge of moving up the table. “It’s been a challenging first half of the season, but we’ll have the guys in over the break, we’ll work hard and we’ll head down to Southern after Christmas looking to change our fortunes.”