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Fortune favours Wairarapa United

Wairarapa United goalkeeper Scott Morris can’t stop Western Suburbs first-half penalty. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

FOOTBALL

Wairarapa United 2
Western Suburbs 2

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

Trust House Wairarapa United had to dig deep and had a big chunk of luck to hold on for a hard-fought 2-2 draw with Western Suburbs at Trust House Memorial Park on Saturday.

United twice came back from a goal down to draw level 10 minutes into the second half, after Jared Cunniff’s diving header from a pinpoint cross from wing-back Mark Hemi found the back of the net for his second goal of the game and seventh in five games in this year’s Central League.

Fortune was on United’s side a few minutes later though, when Wests had a chance to regain the lead after they were rewarded their second penalty of the match when a high boot from a United defender connected with a Wests’ player, who made the most of the minimal contact.

Luckily for United, Oliver van Rijssel’s spot-kick was off target and hit the upright.

Wests dominated possession and territory for much of the remainder of the game, forcing one brilliant save from United goalkeeper Scott Morris, but the home team did enough to hold on for a share of the spoils.

The second half was almost a complete turnaround from the first 45 minutes, in which the home side had the lion’s share of possession and the territorial advantage but found themselves trailing 2-1 at the break.

Wests took the lead after just five minutes when Robert Sabo scored off a rebound from a Morris save.

But from then on United dominated, with Cunniff forcing a brilliant save from Wests’ goalkeeper Kees Sims when one-on-one, and Hugo Delhommelle pushing a free-kick just wide.

Cunniff did even the scores after 26 minutes when he swooped on a soft clearance in the Wests’ box, held his composure and beat Sims with a classic striker’s finish.

The further the half went though, the more the visitors came into the game, and they got their reward just before halftime when Otto Ingham scored from the penalty spot, after United captain Daniel Allen had tripped an attacking player.

Allen was disappointed not to come away with a win but was thrilled with the character shown by his side to twice come from behind.

“I thought the boys did well. That’s a couple of games this year that we’ve fought from behind, and in previous years we could have crumbled, but the boys are putting their hands up,” he said.

“Every point counts, especially with that second penalty where they didn’t score, and we held on and at the end of the season, it might be the difference.

“All the boys worked their ass off and you can’t ask for much more than that. We’re just pushing on and we’re undefeated at home.”

Allen said United did have their chances to put the game out of Wests’ reach in the first half.

“We had a lot of ball compared to previous years against them, and if we’d scored a couple of earlier chances, we could have put our foot down.

“The penalties hurt us. A couple of soft goals undoes a lot of the work that you do the rest of the game, but it just shows it only takes a moment to change a game.

“None of these games are easy as we’ve seen all season, so we’ve just got to keep working and doing our own thing.”

United remain in fourth place in the Central League on eight points along with Wests.

Next up for United is an away fixture at defending champions and leaders Miramar Rangers, who were held to a surprising 1-1 draw by North Wellington.

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