Wairarapa United’s Paul Ifill celebrates one of his two goals on Saturday at Memorial Park. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
By Gary Caffell
It was, as they say, just what the doctor ordered.
A very much new-look Wairarapa United squad hit the ground running with their 4-1 win over Miramar Rangers in their opening round Central League football match played at Memorial Park, Masterton, on Saturday.
As a start to a long season which will encompass 18 games in all it could hardly have been more impressive, especially when you consider that because of national league commitments the full squad has only been together for two training sessions before mounting their 2017 campaign.
Yes, there were times when a lack of combination and communication created defensive lapses which might have proved more costly on another day.
Indeed, Miramar Rangers missed an open goal in the opening minute of the game and might well have added another couple to the one they did score had the finishing work of last season’s runner-up for the league title been up to their usual high standard.
However, when the overall run of play is assessed it’s hard to argue that Wairarapa United thoroughly deserved their success and that both collectively and individually they did enough to already suggest the dream of winning the Central League crown for the first time could well be within their capabilities.
Tactically, Wairarapa United played a style of football which required all 11 players on the field to be very much part of the action.
On attack the emphasis was on the short passing game with the long kick seldom being used to clear the ball from deep in their territory.
Defensively they were constantly in the faces of their opposition, looking to close them down quickly and force them to hurry their passes.
It was the potent strike force of skipper Sam Mason-Smith and Paul Ifill who were responsible for the Wairarapa United goals, both scoring one in each half.
They were constantly nagging away at a somewhat tentative Miramar Rangers defence, with Mason-Smith tending to pose problems with his bustling, aggressive approach, and Ifill relying more on his clever ball skills to effect the same result.
Between them they promise to be a real handful for opposing defences as the season progresses.
The talents of Mason-Smith and Ifill were, of course, well known to local fans before Saturday’s game but not so that of a group of “imports” from Tasman’s national league side.
Daniel Allan, Cameron Lindsay, Alex Ridsdale and Coey Turipa all had every reason to feel satisfied with their debut in the Wairarapa United colours, and two of them, Allan and Turipa, would surely have been front runners for any player of the match award.
Allan showed calmness and strength on defence, and goalkeeper Turipa was agile and courageous whenever his goal was threatened.
Anybody who questioned the wisdom of coach Phil Keinzley in starting with youngster Callan Elliott ahead of Seule Soromon as part of the attacking unit were quickly won over by the pace, verve and determination Elliott showed, particularly in the first half where he made several scintillating bursts down the right flank.
In fairness to Soromon, he also made a positive impact when he came off the bench and it will be interesting to see which of them are part of the run-on team for the clash with defending CL champions, Olympic, in Wellington next weekend.
Keinzley was delighted with the first-up effort from his side although quick to add that there was still plenty of room for improvement.
“You’re never quite sure what you are going to get when you have so many new faces in the team and such a limited preparation,” he said.
“It’s a big relief to see them all stepping up and playing so well.
“It’s certainly given us something positive to build on, and that’s always a good sign.”