Paul Ifill, scored twice. PHOTO/FILE
The Wairarapa United men’s team finished on the wrong side of a goal-fest against Central League leaders Napier City Rovers at Memorial Park on Saturday night.
Rovers showed their class and eventually came away with a 7-5 win, but United produced some of their best football of the season in defeat.
Things were looking ominous for United early in the match as Rovers raced to a 2-0 lead inside 10 minutes.
But United recovered quickly and were level in no time through an opening goal to skipper Cameron Lindsay and a stunning strike from Paul Ifill.
On the half hour mark Ifill was brought down inside the penalty box and stepped up to score the resulting penalty.
Rovers hit straight back to level the scores at 3-3 and then United’s Shakille Belle was shown a red card in questionable circumstances.
His foul was certainly worthy of a yellow card but to send him straight to the sidelines seemed harsh, and put United under immense pressure for the rest of the match.
You wouldn’t have known it at the start of the second spell, however, as two quick goals saw United take a remarkable 5-3 lead.
Rovers’ desperation was apparent in the final 20 minutes as they hammered home their numerical advantage and swamped United’s defenders.
With 10 minutes to go the scores were level and then Rovers struck twice more to win 7-5.
Coach Phil Keinzley said the red card had proven too much for his side to overcome.
“The red card was a decisive moment.”
“It’s crucial when you’re trying to hang on and play with 10 men.”
Keinzley had challenged his team to lift their enthusiasm and intensity from previous matches, and in that respect he was much happier with their performance.
“There was a lot more passion there and coming back from 2-0 down early in the piece showed a lot of character.
“To get to the last 10 minutes and still be totally in the game was good – just by the way [Rovers] were celebrating after the game showed they knew they had got out of jail in the game.”
United’s Central League title hopes are all but extinguished, and Keinzley said all their focus would now be on next Monday’s Chatham Cup match against Wellington United.
“Our focus will be totally on the Chatham Cup now.
“We’re building the numbers and we know now we can take any team on, you just hope we’ve exhausted all the bad luck.”
Meanwhile, the Wairarapa United women’s team continued their good form on Saturday after coming back from 1-0 down to beat Western Suburbs 2-1 to maintain second place in the Capital Football W-League.