Wairarapa United’s Alex Ridsdale rounds Miramar Rangers keeper Phil Imray on his way to scoring his team’s first goal. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

By Gary Caffell

Wairarapa United are through to the quarter-finals of the national Chatham Cup football competition.

In an enthralling match before a good-sized crowd at Memorial Park, Masterton on Saturday, they guaranteed their place in the last eight with a 2-1 victory over arch rivals Miramar Rangers.

The game was very much one of two halves with Wairarapa United clearly having the better of the first, which they ended with a 2-0 advantage, and then having to spend long periods on hard defence in the second as Miramar Rangers desperately strove to get themselves back in contention.

The visitors did score the only goal of that half but it was not enough to stop Wairarapa United progressing further in a competition they so famously won for the first and only time in 2011.

With star striker Paul Ifill side-lined through a hamstring strain, the suspicion was that Wairarapa United’s attack could also be hamstrung through his absence, but the home team quelled those doubts with a first half effort which produced goals to Alex Ridsdale and Sam Mason-Smith, and with an ounce or two of luck might have seen them add at least another couple as well.

Ridsdale netted after excellent lead-up work from Callan Elliot and Mason-Smith, while Mason-Smith himself scored when he benefitted from a huge mix-up in the Miramar Rangers defence which left him in the clear with nobody to beat.

The speed and efficiency of the Wairarapa United passing was a constant highlight of the first half with captain Mason-Smith and Ermal Hajdari benefitting from the excellent service given them by midfielders Cory Chettleburgh, Ridsdale and Elliot.

Also impressive whenever he ventured forward was right fullback Seule Soromon, whose rapid acceleration often saw him outflank the cover defence.

So dominant had Wairarapa United been throughout the first half, in fact, that going into the interval there seemed to be little chance of them being overhauled, but Miramar Rangers clearly had other ideas, lifting their effort several notches over the next 45 minutes and pinning the home team deep in their own territory for much of the second half.

This situation, of course, meant that Wairarapa United’s defensive structure was thoroughly tested and while they did concede a goal through Miramar Rangers striker Tom Jackson they held together well enough for victory to be achieved.

There was though the odd nervous moment, none more so than virtually on fulltime when the ball looked for all money to be going into the top corner of Wairarapa United net only for fullback Daniel Allan to leap high and head it over the posts.

Allan, Cameron Lindsay and goalkeeper Coey Turipa all had superb games defensively but even so they were overshadowed in that area by Bryan Kalteck, who was an absolute inspiration with his solidity, both in the air and on the ground.

The number of telling tackles he made would have run well into double figures.

The other Chatham Cup match played in the Capital region featured Western Suburbs and Stop Out with Western Suburbs, who lead the Central League by 4pts from Wairarapa United, continuing their excellent season with a 5-1 victory.