Wairarapa United goalkeeper Courtney Norman thwarts a Waterside-Karori attack. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
The Tumu ITM Wairarapa United women finished second in the W-League, although they ended the season equal on points at the head of the table.
United went into Saturday’s final game against Waterside-Karori [Wharfies] knowing they would need to win by a massive score or for Wellington United Diamonds to suffer an upset loss, or draw, to have any chance of the winning the championship.
United did get the win, 3-2, in a hard-fought game, but Diamonds’ 6-0 defeat of Western Suburbs was enough for them to lift the trophy on goal difference.
United started Saturday’s game, played at Hullena Park, in promising style.
The home side raced out to a 3-0 lead after 14 minutes and a miracle result looked possible.
An own goal, deflected into the net from an Amber Phillips cross after nine minutes, opened the scoring.
Sydnie Williams doubled the lead three minutes later, when she was given too much space on the edge of the box and finished superbly.
Phillips was on the scoresheet two minutes later when she tucked the ball into the net from a Darby Lambert cross.
Phillips was causing the defence all sorts of problems and could’ve extended the lead when given space inside the box only for her shot to sail wide after 19 minutes.
Wharfies slowly began to work their way back into the game and they caught the United defence napping on a counter attack, to make the score 3-1 in the 22nd minute.
The visitors’ increased pressure paid off with a second goal in the 33rd minute.
Both teams had their opportunities to add to the score, but a combination of poor finishing and some good saves, especially from United keeper Courtney Norman, resulted in a scoreless second half.
United clearly struggled in the trying conditions; the game was played in a bitterly cold southerly, much of it in driving rain.
The home side continued to try and play their free-flowing game, but it was the bigger more physical Wharfies’ players who probably handled the deteriorating conditions better, the longer the game progressed.
Meanwhile, the Jaycar Wairarapa United men have survived for another year in the Central League, despite a 5-0 loss to Lower Hutt City on Saturday.
United’s place in the league was almost assured before kickoff with Wellington United on the way to a big loss to Miramar Rangers. Wellington eventually lost 13-0 to a Miramar side that included two women, meaning the Masterton-based team would avoid relegation, despite having not won a game all season.
Lower Hutt started the better in the game played in atrocious conditions at Memorial Park. Their early dominance paid dividends, with Tom Scott finding the back of the net when given too much space on the edge of the box.
The visitors doubled the lead in controversial fashion in the 36th minute.
Referee Chris Bennett, who had a massive say in the outcome of the match, made the first of several contentious calls, when he adjudged a defender had taken out an attacking player inside the box. If anything, it appeared the attacker had pushed the defender in the back.
United were then down to 10 men when captain Cameron Lindsay was red carded for alleged dissent about the decision.
Kurtis Mogg coolly slotted the penalty for a 2-0 halftime lead.
Bennett had the crowd bamboozled with many of his decisions, in particular his interpretation of the advantage rule.
On at least two occasions he pulled back United attacks to give them free kicks when the players were in the clear on attack.
United battled away manfully but being a man down told and three goals in a 10-minute period part way through the second half put the game out of reach.
It was Bennett who had the final say when United’s veteran striker Seule Soromon was sent for an early shower, when he went in for a two-footed tackle, although he missed the opposition player.