Sam Mason-Smith beats a Napier City Rovers defender. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
By Gary Caffell
Wairarapa United kept their hopes for a first ever Central League men’s football title alive when they scored a 3-1 win over Napier City Rovers at Memorial Park, Masterton on Sunday.
The victory kept Wairarapa United in second place on the points table, 4pts in arrears of Western Suburbs with still four series of games to be played.
As seems to be the norm for matches against NCR the home team found themselves having to come from behind, conceding a goal in the eighth minute when a defensive blunder was seized upon by Ross Wilcox who made no mistake with his strike.
The next 20 minutes saw Wairarapa United make most of the play but fail to convert a number of golden scoring opportunities into goals.
Paul Ifill had a shot rebound off the posts, a Cory Chettleburgh shot from a free kick was tipped just over the upright and Sam Mason-Smith had a shot from point blank range somehow fly over rather than into the goal.
With that sort of sustained pressure it did seem inevitable though that sooner or later Wairarapa United would draw level and it was Mason-Smith who managed to bamboozle a couple of defenders before slotting the ball home in the 26th minute to make it 1-1.
A long, probing run by Wilcox, who along with Bill Robertson and Josh Stevenson was the pick of the NCR side, had the Wairarapa United defence scrambling but goalkeeper Coey Turipa was equal to the task.
Then after Alex Ridsdale had come to close to taking toll of an excellent cross from Ermal Hajdari the home side hit the front in the 41st minute when the impressive Bryan Kaltak rose high to head the ball into the net from a corner.
Wairarapa United 2, Napier City Rovers 1.
The second half saw two of Wairarapa United’s most influential players, Chettleburgh and striker Paul Ifill, subbed off within the first 20 minutes but even though this did blunt the effectiveness of their attack to a degree they still continued to call the tune with Hajdari, Mason-Smith and Cameron Lindsay prominent in several promising moves.
However, they did not add to their scoreline until about 10 minutes from fulltime when a well-timed Mason-Smith pass put Hajdari in the clear and he comfortably steered the ball into the back of the net.