Paul Ifill’s  fierce shot forced a good save from goalkeeper Lowere Hutt City custodian Alex Paulsen on Sunday in a Central League match. PHOTOS/JADE CVETKOV
Wairarapa United forged a 1-0 win over Lower Hutt City on the back of a strong defensive effort in the second half which gave them three valuable points in a congested Central League points table.
The result lifted United to seventh in the 10-team league on eight points, but there are only two points [from nine to seven points] covering the bottom six teams.
United made the better start on Sunday at Trust House Memorial Park and took the lead after eight minutes.
Dead ball specialist Hugo Delhommelle hit a freekick from a narrow angle five metres outside the box that sneaked in at the near post.
Paul Ifill nearly doubled the lead two minutes later only for his powerful shot to cannon off the upright, and he couldn’t control the second attempt volley.
In an open and free-flowing first half, both teams had their chances. United goalkeeper Alex Britton made a very good scrambling save when a Lower Hutt player had a one-on-one chance.
Ifill forced a good save from Paulsen with a fierce left-foot shot, centreback Cameron Lindsay shot high, and Jonty Roubos had a shot tipped over the crossbar by Paulsen.The second 45 minutes was a stark contrast to the first half with Lower Hutt enjoying a greater share of possession and territory.
United slipped into some bad habits and at times gifted possession to the visitors with some poor passing, often while in attacking positions.
Lower Hutt failed to capitalise on several freekicks in dangerous areas, many of them awarded when their players fell over from minimal contact.
The substitution of five players after 60 minutes injected more pace into the Lower Hutt effort and they began to dominate more and more.
United weren’t to be denied and their defence held strong.
Britton was rarely forced to make a save, although centreback Scott Adams cleared one goal-bound shot off the line, and a late strike hit the crossbar.
Midfielder Cory Chettleburgh had a late chance to steal a late goal for United but his attempt was easily saved by Paulsen.
United captain Ben Watson was thrilled with the second strong defensive effort in two games, after they held Napier City Rovers to 1-1 draw the previous Sunday.
“It was definitely a lot of guts and determination, and it boils down to how we stood last week when we had nine men and we had to defend the second half. We kept that mentality going into this game and we ground it out,” he said.
“The first half we managed to play some good football and Hugo stole a freekick, and he’s brilliant from the spot, but the second half was a completely different story, and we had to bunker down a lot more and defend the lead.”
Watson also had some special praise for his fellow American Adams, who had his best game in the green shirt, and made that crucial goal-line clearance.
“He played a fantastic game today, I’ll give it to him, and I don’t like to give him too much credit though he played very well.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen him do that in university back in the States – he had probably 10 goal-line clearances last year.”
Watson said confidence would be high in the camp after the last two gutsy efforts.
“The boys are buzzing. Ever since last weekend, when you get a result away at Napier, a decent result with nine men, the morale starts to go up, the confidence goes up. The boys are excited to play again, and we’re loving it.
“The future is bright. Next week we’ve got Waterside- Karori who are near the bottom of the table so we should be able to put away another win and get three points and keep moving up the table.”
The match was also the last for the versatile Liam Heard, who headed back to Otterbein University, Ohio yesterday.
“It was a good farewell for him, he got the start, and we got the three points for him. There’s not a better send-off than that,” Watson said.