Paul Ifill, left, scores the first goal for Wairarapa United. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV.
There is a good chance that, come the end of the season, Wairarapa United will look back on their 3-2 victory over Wellington United in the Central League men’s football match at a windy Memorial Park on Saturday as one of the most significant in this campaign.
Not only was it achieved against a quality side which had scored six goals in each game when winning their previous two games but there were times when the home team were their own worst enemies.
Like when they butchered at least three prime scoring opportunities – two in the first five minutes – and when they were reduced to 10 men in the second half after skipper Cameron Lindsay was sent off for dissent.
There was just seven minutes remaining on the clock then, and Wairarapa United were constantly under the pump as Wellington United desperately tried to haul back the one-goal deficit.
That they were able to overcome these obstacles and take their record to two wins, a draw and a loss in their first four games of the 2018 league season spoke volumes for the resilience of the Wairarapa United squad.
It kept the dream of their first ever CL title very much alive in the process.
While it is true that goals win matches, and Wairarapa United’s three courtesy of Paul Ifill, Aaron Speirling and Shaquille Belle, were all impressive efforts, it was the defence of the home side which most grabbed the attention in this match.
Barbados international Ricardio Morris was especially prominent, often nipping dangerous Wellington United attacks in the bud with his uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time to pick up intercepts and his coolness in tight pressure situations.
Giving Morris excellent support was a composed Daniel Allan, and young goalkeeper Alex Britton had what would have to be his most impressive game for the team, pulling off a couple of spectacular saves which, in the end, proved crucial to the result.
It would be fair to label Wairarapa United’s attacking effort as mixed. On occasions, they were brilliant, such was the opening quarter when Ifill was majestic in the way he consistently befuddled the Wellington United defence with clever changes of direction and superb ball control and when Shaquille Belle and Callan Elliot were given room to utilise their pace.
Elliot was a surprise inclusion in the starting line-up as it was thought his involvement with a New Zealand Under-20 training camp would have him sidelined but with other Wellington United players participating in the same camp, football’s hierarchy rightly decided to give them time off to do battle at Memorial Park. And Elliot would have done his chances of making the final cut for the national side absolutely no harm with his performance.
For Belle, another Barbados international, it was first match on the artificial turf at Memorial Park and while he didn’t always make the most of his scoring chances, the way he headed home his goal was a classic illustration of the danger he poses because of his high skill levels.
Wairarapa United’s next league assignment is an away fixture against Havelock North on Wednesday.