Hawke’s Bay United sealed third place in the ASB Premiership on Sunday as striker Sean Lovemore netted a hat-trick in a 5-2 win over Canterbury United at Bluewater Stadium in Napier.
Lovemore scored two of the game’s five goals in a frantic opening 25 minutes and the Hawke’s Bay United striker completed his hat-trick with 13 minutes to go, earning a share of the league Golden Boot crown with Wellington Phoenix striker Tyler Boyd on 10 for the season.
Sunday’s result confirms the two-leg playoff match-ups beginning next week as Hawke’s Bay United will host second-placed Team Wellington while ASB Premiership minor premiers Auckland City will travel to Super City Derby rivals Waitakere United.
– AUDIO – Sean Lovemore post-match interview (via Hawke’s Bay Utd)
Knowing a win was needed to earn third spot, Lovemore started as he meant to go on in the third minute, controlling and finishing well after a great Finlay Milne pass, only for Canterbury to reply two minutes later from the spot via Aaron Clapham after a Saul Halpin handball.
The 1-1 score line only survived until the 14th minute when Aaron Spain put the visitors ahead after Clapham pounced on a loose pass and played in his namesake.
But the home side were again level just two minutes later when Lovemore expertly received an excellent long pass from Ryan Tinsley to fire in with his left foot from the edge of the Hawke’s Bay area.
The home side were in front seven minutes later as Tinsley turned from provider to scorer, curling in a superb effort from 25 metres out of the reach of Knight.
— HB United (@HawkesBayUnited) March 15, 2015
The halftime score could have been much greater but Clapham and Canterbury were denied by Hawke’s Bay United ‘keeper Josh Hill after the former All Whites midfielder had driven to the byline while an earlier volleyed effort was blocked by Rudi Bauerfeind.
At the other end, Lovemore had several shots blocked as he pushed to draw level with Golden Boot leader Boyd while a 40th minute Tinsley cross was only just out of the reach of the Hawke’s Bay marksman.
The second half continued in similar fashion, Lovemore getting into shooting positions without adding to his tally while Hill was also in action; back-tracking to deny a looping header before tipping over an Adam Dickinson drive with 15 minutes to go.
But with 13 minutes remaining Lovemore confirmed his hat-trick – and moved level with Boyd in the Golden Boot race – when he finished well after being put clear by Halpin.
The hosts then rubbed salt into the visitors’ wounds in stoppage time, captain Ross Haviland rising to power home a header at the back post for 5-2.
Speaking shortly after the final whistle, Lovemore was proud of the effort of his side and said they are looking forward to the playoff clash with Team Wellington.
“I’m ecstatic,” Lovemore said, “the boys really stepped up today. It could have been more but we’ll take 5-2, we’re pretty happy.
“We’ve got Team Wellington now and we’re definitely capable of doing it to anyone in this league.
“It’s been a long time coming scoring five goals. We’ve had enough chances during games but this time the boys finished them off which is definitely pleasing.”
— Mario Barcia (@mariobarcia5) March 15, 2015
Canterbury end the season in eighth place, four points ahead of bottom side Southern United, and coach Sean Devine said his side paid dearly for not closing down Hawke’s Bay’s big weapons.
“It was good for the punters, there were plenty of goals,” Devine said.
“[There was] a bit of defensive inconsistency from us in the first half, we didn’t get tight enough and let their key players turn. Lovemore, you need to be tight on him. If you give him too much space that’s what he does – he punished us.”
Devine says Sunday’s effort reflected the rest of his side’s season with their inability to take scoring chances again hurting.
“It’s been us all season; we seem to do it the hard way. We get back in front and then we concede two soft goals again and you’re climbing a mountain.
“We changed things at halftime and, to be fair, I thought it was absolutely superb in the second half the way we played. We just can’t capitalise on chances. That’s just been us. We just can’t buy a win.”
VIDEO – Hawke’s Bay United player profile – Saul Halpin
ASB Premiership 2014-15 – Round 18
Sunday 15 March
Hawke’s Bay United 5-2 Canterbury United (half: 3-2)
HB: Sean Lovemore 3’, 16’, 77’, Ryan Tinsley 23’, Ross Haviland 90+3’
CU: Aaron Clapham (pen) 6’, Aaron Spain 14’
Hawke’s Bay United: 1. Joshua Hill (GK), 4. Ross Haviland, 5. Finlay Milne, 6. Ryan Tinsley, 8. Alex Palezevic, 9. Sean Lovemore (17. Bradley Perks 80’), 11. Mario Barcia, 12. Saul Halpin, 14. Rudi Bauerfeind (7. Troy Pennycooke-Morgan 60’), 21. Sean Liddicoat, 22. Billy Scott
Substitutes not used: 2. Wade Randle, 16. Leon Birnie, 26. Kyle Baxter (GK)
Coach: Brett Angell
Canterbury United: 1. Danny Knight (GK), 2. Dan Terris, 3. Anthony Jones, 5. Tom Schwarz (9. Mario Hofmann 46’), 8. Aaron Clapham, 10. Meysum Shafahi (7. Renta Yamamoto 68’), 13. Andreas Wilson, 15. Dan Schwarz, 18. Adam Dickinson, 20. Stu Kelly (23. Oscar Evans 46’), 25. Aaron Spain
Substitute not used: 19. Pablo Moya
Coach: Sean Devine
Additional reporting by Matt Hastings – Hawke’s Bay United