Paul Ifill [green, right] celebrates Corey Chettleburgh’s [number 15] third-minute goal. PHOTOS/JADE CVETKOV
There were 13 heroes for Wairarapa United as they pulled off the upset of the year to beat Central League high-flyers Miramar Rangers 1-0 at Trust House Memorial Park on Sunday.
The win was vital after Petone had upset Waterside-Karori on Saturday leaving United rooted to the bottom of the table in the relegation position.
United are now ninth, one point ahead of Stop Out with four games to play.United started brightly and took the lead in the third minute when midfielder Noah Boyce made a strong run into the box and let fly with a powerful left-footer.
Goalkeeper Keegan Smith parried the shot into the path of midfielder Corey Chettleburgh, who tapped the ball in at the far post.
The visitors went close to equalising almost immediately only to be denied by a brilliant two-footed save by goalkeeper Scott Morris. That was the first of several courageous saves by the tall goalkeeper.
The home side’s prospects were dealt a cruel blow after 19 minutes when influential playmaker Paul Ifill came off with a recurring hamstring niggle and replaced by 16-year-old Wairarapa College student Nahum McPhee.
Although Miramar dominated possession and territory, United still created opportunities to add to their score, most notably Seule Soromon late in the first half, only for the former Vanuatu international to slightly overrun the pass with only Smith to beat.
Boyce also had a close look at goal early in the second half, but his powerful shot was well-saved by Smith.
Most of the rest of the game featured Miramar hot on the attack with United stoutly blunting the sallies.
Morris was outstanding, pulling off several brilliant saves from point-blank range and tipping over at least three goal-bound long-range efforts.
The young goalkeeper was quick to heap praise on his teammates.
“The last few weeks have been pretty much out of our control, and a few results haven’t gone our way.
“But for the boys to put in a shift like that against the league leaders, you can’t fault it. Everything just seemed to go our way, like the bounce of the ball for the first time this season,” Morris said
“There was a lot of shouting and screaming at my players, and it was very intimidating at the end with all the corners, but we got through it.”
United had their fair share of luck, with shots hitting the crossbar and the ball being cleared off the line on three occasions, but that only seemed to galvanise the home side more and frustrate Miramar, who began to rush their build-up play and rely on hopeful shots.
United captain Cameron Lindsay said it came down to pure grit and determination.
“We were clearly a bit understrength, and they had all the possession, but sometimes it comes down to just grinding it out at this stage of the season,” he said.
“Scotty was immense in goal. We must have defended 20-odd corners, but everyone just worked their socks off.”
Coach Davor Tavich was also thrilled with the outcome from his injury-hit team.
“We dug in, we fought for it, it wasn’t pretty by any means, but we had to do it, and we got three points against the top team in the league,” he said.
“I had two under-17s [McPhee and Hadley Wiramanaden] on the pitch who played in the morning and that was outstanding.
“There are many games this year where we didn’t have any luck, but on Sunday we had luck, an outstanding keeper and an outstanding 10 players, and we scored a nice goal too. I’m more than happy.”
The victory has come at a cost though. French midfielder Hugo Delhommelle picked up his fifth yellow card and will miss Saturday’s away game with North Wellington.
Ifill is likely to be sidelined by his hamstring injury, and Soromon could also be in doubt after hobbling off late in Sunday’s match.