Title hopefuls capitalise on Auckland’s absence

Facundo Barbero celebrates scoring a late goal for Hawke's Bay United against the Wellington Phoenix U-20s. Photo: John Cowpland / www.photosport.nz

With previous leaders Auckland City away at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, the other sides harbouring title hopes in the Stirling Sports Premiership all had the chance to make up ground on the Navy Blues in Round Seven today and four took full advantage of that opportunity.

The comforts of home proved telling as the hosts recorded victories in all of the day’s fixtures, Eastern Suburbs ending the day at the top of the tree and being joined in celebrating three points by Hawke’s Bay United, Team Wellington and Waitakere United.

The action kicked off with an early start at Bluewater Stadium in Napier and it didn’t take long for Hawke’s Bay to get their noses in front against the Wellington Phoenix U-20s, who would have fancied their chances after earning two straight wins.

One of those successes was an upset against Auckland City so confidence wouldn’t have been an issue for the Phoenix in their short trip north. But their hopes of making it three in a row suffered a blow early on when Angus Kilkolly put the Bay in front on 16 minutes and it was a setback they did not manage to overcome, despite Logan Rogerson going on to cause problems down the left-hand side.

Back from suspension, Cory Chettleburgh was in good form in the middle of the park for the Bay but it took a long time before his team was able to be sure of the win, Facundo Barbero coming off the bench to replace fellow goalscorer Kilkolly before tapping home for 2-0 in the 81st minute.

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Hawke’s Bay United coach Brett Angell

Wellington Phoenix U-20 midfielder Joe Bell

The Bay had now set the tone for the day’s theme of home triumphs and those kicking off later were all too happy to follow in their footsteps, starting with Wellington and Waitakere.

After an underwhelming opening to their title defence, reigning champions Wellington appear to have found their feet under new coach Jose Figueira and that was further underlined by a dominant scoreline against Southern United, who remain the only side without a win.

Tom Jackson did most of the damage at David Farrington Park with a hat-trick and it was the striker who got the ball rolling just past the half hour, firing in the rebound after an Andy Bevin shot. There was no further scoring in the remainder of the half but the net was bulging again soon after the restart through a tidy turn and finish from Nicolas Zambrano.

Waitakere United goalscorer Dan Morgan pursues Canterbury United defender Brock Messenger. Photo: Peter Meecham / www.photosport.nz

Waitakere United goalscorer Dan Morgan pursues Canterbury United defender Brock Messenger. Photo: Peter Meecham / www.photosport.nz

With their confidence surely low after a string of disappointing results, it looked like there was little chance of Southern getting back into the contest but, to their great credit, Paul O’Reilly’s side hit back almost immediately when Andy Mulligan pounced on an error by defender Guillermo Moretti. Wellington goalkeeper Scott Basalaj was then forced to make a stunning save to deny Danny Ledwith as Southern searched for an equaliser.

The capital men were able to get their two-goal cushion back though when Jackson slotted home a pass from a quick free kick with just under 20 minutes remaining and he completed his hat-trick from the spot in additional time after being felled by goalkeeper Liam Little.

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Team Wellington coach Jose Figueira

Southern United coach Paul O’Reilly

There were less goals at Fred Taylor Park but Waitakere won’t be bothered about that after carving out a crucial win that lifts them to second-equal on the ladder, locked on points with Auckland and Wellington. The only goal of the game out west arrived on 31 minutes through Dan Morgan – who skippered Birkenhead United to a Chatham Cup success over the winter – after good work down the left by Dylan Stansfield had created the chance.

Stansfield nearly extended the lead when hitting the cross bar just before the break while Morgan could have had a second in the closing moments of the match but was denied by goalkeeper Danny Knight. Canterbury almost got on level terms in the 50th minute but Waitakere custodian Pirmin Strasser dived low to save Aaron Clapham’s free kick and the visitors almost pinched a late equaliser when Aaron Spain struck the post but Waitakere were able to close out the victory.

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Waitakere United coach Chris Milicich

There was still plenty of drama reserved for the day’s late kick off and televised game at Bill McKinlay Park in Auckland, Eastern Suburbs having to hold off a spirited challenge from Tasman United before triumphing 4-2. Suburbs’ Sean Lovemore and Tasman’s Tinashe Marowa swapped early goals, both capitalising on sloppy pieces of defending.

All Whites defender Luke Adams restored the home side’s lead around the hour mark, showing great reactions to turn home a deflected Moses Dyer shot, but Suburbs passed up the opportunity to make it three when Henry Chikere saw his spot kick well saved by Coey Turipa in the 79th minute.

The Tasman player who had given away the penalty for handball, Daniel Allan, was then in the action at the other end just minutes later when rising gracefully to head home for 2-2. It looked like Suburbs would be made to pay for their miss from the spot but Lovemore had other ideas, showing a cool head to draw Turipa in a one-on-one situation and tuck the ball under him with only a couple of minutes on the clock.

All Whites midfielder Dyer then put the icing on the cake at 4-2 by cutting into the area and smashing past Turipa in time added on.

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Eastern Suburbs coach Malcolm McPherson

Tasman United coach Richard Anderson

The Stirling Sports Premiership returns next weekend with the eighth round,  for more information and to view the full fixtures and standings please click here

Stirling Sports Premiership – Round Seven

Hawke’s Bay United 2 (Angus Kilkolly 16’, Facundo Barbero 81’)
Wellington Phoenix U-20 0
HT: 1-0

Team Wellington 4 (Tom Jackson 35’, 72’, pen 90’ + 2’, Nicolas Zambrano 50’)
Southern United 1 (Andy Mulligan 54’)
HT: 1-0

Waitakere United 1 (Dan Morgan 31’)
Canterbury United 0
HT: 1-0

Eastern Suburbs 4 (Sean Lovemore 5’, 88’, Luke Adams 59’, Moses Dyer 90’ + 2’)
Tasman United 2 (Tinashe Marowa 20’, Daniel Allan 83’)
HT: 1-1

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