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Plenty for Tavich to smile about

Paul Ifill … 40-year-old still has the knack to score goals. PHOTO/FILE

FOOTBALL

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

There were some encouraging signs for new Wairarapa United coach Davor Tavich [pictured right] in his side’s 3-0 win in a pre-season friendly against Whanganui Athletic at Memorial Park, Palmerston North on Saturday.

The win was United’s first in more than a year, having failed to win a Central League match in 2019 while narrowly avoiding relegation.

Although Athletic play in the Central Federation Premier League, a step down from the Central League, Tavich said it was a pleasing result against a useful side.

“It was a pretty good first game. Everybody was very keen, and we played fairly well. We were missing about five players, so it was a good start,” Tavich said.

“We’ve got some talented footballers, and I was happy with the young players. They created some good opportunities, and that will give us some confidence.”

“Josh Rudland went well upfront, Riley Groves, a 16-year-old, had a really busy game in the midfield, and Isaac Noble was very good at left-back.”

Americans Ben Watson and Scott Adams also impressed the coach in their first outing for the club.

“There was lots of energy from both of them, and you could tell they had played at a high level.

Ben Watson, left, and Scott Adams. PHOTO/FILE

“Scott played very well in the midfield and brought a lot of creativity, and Ben at right fullback was solid on defence and added a lot to the attack,” Tavich said.

Midfielder Hugo Delhommelle was another to stand out for Tavich, who did not have to wait long to witness the Frenchman’s dead-ball prowess.

Delhommelle, who had scored three brilliant goals from freekicks during his brief four-match stint with United last season, was given a chance from just outside the penalty box in the opening minutes of Saturday’s match and didn’t disappoint, coolly beating the goalkeeper to open the scoring.

“Hugo was very smart, and you can tell he has played at a high level. He brought a lot of French flair,” Tavich added.

Rathkeale student Rudland netted the second goal to give United a handy lead at halftime.

Paul Ifill was all class in playing his first full game in 11 months after suffering a severe concussion in a 1-1 draw with Napier City Rovers.

Hugo Delhommelle’s French flair was on show in Wairarapa United’s 3-0 win over Whanganui Athletic. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

The 40-year-old Wellington Phoenix legend had a goal disallowed in a close offside call but then found the back of the net to wrap up a satisfying first outing for the new-look side.

“I played the 90 minutes. The [covid-19] lockdown came at the right time for me to get over my concussion, but I’m a bit stiff and sore today,” Ifill said on Monday.

“It was good to get a win after we didn’t win a game all last season. It will give the boys a lot of confidence.”

A better indication of United’s prospects will come on Saturday when they wrap up their pre-season with an away match against 2019 Central League champions, Western Suburbs at Endeavour Park, Whitby.

The Wairarapa United women’s side will also travel to Whitby to play Western Suburbs in a Kelly Cup quarterfinal.

SCORES

Whanganui Athletic 0 Wairarapa United 3 [Hugo Delhommelle, Josh Rudland, Paul Ifill goals]. HT: 0-2

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