Wairarapa United goalkeeper Coey Turipa in action against Napier City Rovers. He will miss Saturday’s match with Lower Hutt.
By Gary Caffell
Wairarapa United’s dream of a first-ever Central League title in 2017 is in tatters.
While their shock 4-2 loss to Taranaki in New Plymouth on Sunday still leaves them with a mathematical chance of overhauling front runners, Western Suburbs, the reality is that the title race is all over bar the shouting.
With three rounds remaining, the seven-point advantage held by Western Suburbs over second-placed Wairarapa United — 38 points to 31 — means that Western Suburbs only have to beat bottom-placed Palmerston North Marist at home next weekend to guarantee themselves the number one spot.
Wairarapa United coach Phil Keinzley is absolutely resigned to the fact that yet another season has gone by without his team being league champions.
“If we win our last three and they lose theirs we could still do it — but that’s not going to happen. We have to accept that,” he said.
“We could talk miracles but that’s asking a bit much.”
Keinzley was making no excuses for the Taranaki defeat, saying his side were rocked by conceding a goal soon after the start of play and struggled to get any continuity into their play throughout a first half at the end of which they trailed 3-0.
“It was almost like we were in panic mode once that first goal was scored, the composure went right out the window and we kept turning over ball through simple mistakes.
“We were terrible and they capitalised, that’s about all there was to it.”
The second half was an improvement for Wairarapa United with a change of shape having a positive effect and even without defender Bryan Kalteck, who was sent from the field after being given a second yellow card, they scored goals through Paul Ifill and Corey Chettleburgh and had another disallowed when the ball did appear to go over the line only for the linesman to rule differently.
But in the end, it was Taranaki who had the final say, scoring after they had taken a quick freekick while Wairarapa United were still organising their defence to seal the win.
Defender Andrew Coad was the pick of the Wairarapa United players and youngsters Callan Elliot and Stephen Sprowson also had solid games.
This coming Saturday will see Wairarapa United continue their league programme with what Keinzley labels a “very important” game against Lower Hutt at Memorial Park.
Not only will the coveted Eva Francis Trophy be at stake there but it will also be Wairarapa United’s final dress rehearsal before their Chatham Cup quarter-final against star-studded Central United in Auckland.
“Nothing builds confidence like a good win, and that’s what we need,” Keinzley said.
“We don’t want to be heading to Auckland struggling for form — it’s going to be tough enough there without that.”
Reserve goalkeeper Scott Morris will make his first start for Wairarapa United as regular custodian Coey Turipa picked up his fifth yellow card for the season against Taranaki meaning he will be serving a one-match suspension.