You know who deserves a trophy? Ricki Herbert. No points for drawing games at a World Cup, nor for beating what, let’s be honest, wasn’t even a very good Bahrain side… but turning Hamilton Wanderers into a competitive team in the Premmy? Mate, that’s worth all the honours combined.
Last week’s 3-3 draw with Canterbury was a classic, a game that would be on the first disc of the greatest hits DVD collection (if only more games were filmed). Hamilton coming from 3-0 down to draw down in Christchurch… except it came at a cost with Derek Tieku and Jordan Shaw suspended as well as Joe Nottage out injured. That meant a reshuffle as Auckland City came to town for the televised game, a reshuffle which saw Tino Contratti slide into centre-back and Joe Terry come in at right back, while Paul Clout got a first start of the campaign at left back and Stafford Dowling played further forward on the wing. Young gun Stefano Riley also got a welcome start
Weird formation from Auckland City, going with three at the back. Brian Kaltack got just his second start of the season and he lined up in defence along with Angel Berlanga and Alfie Rogers. Dan Morgan and Jordan Vale made for a couple excellent wingbacks… with Mario Bilen in midfield along with Cam Howieson and Reid Drake. Dylan Manickum returned up front with Javier Lopez. So still no Micah Lea’alafa, David Browne, Albert Riera or Fabrizio Tavano then. With Bilen in midfield that was a pretty unfortunate situation and Hamilton set about making use of it by pressing hard in the midfield and, let’s be honest, pretty much dominating the first half against the defending champs. Dan Morgan nearly scored on the counter when he broke through and saw Matty Oliver off his line… but his chipped shot was padded away for a corner. That was the best ACFC could muster and it was only their ceaselessly excellent defence that kept them from suffering too much.
Mario Bilen was subbed off at half-time with Yousif Al-Kalisy coming on in his place, a more attacking option in the middle of the park and it made a difference. City were a lot better… until Dylan Manickum left his sprigs up on Tino Contratti in the 55th minute and he was off with a second yellow. Could’ve potentially been a straight red, really.
Thing is, that sorta had a better effect on City. Down to ten men they simplified the game plan while Hamilton were forced to go to the bench and replace the hobbled Contratti, who had already gone down hurt earlier and had arguably been their best player thus far (along with Stafford Dowling). The Wanderers are way down on depth with injuries and suspensions. They couldn’t handle another defensive change. Hence after a couple of close chances for Semmy and Dowling, the Tron Wands went and fell behind with five minutes remaining. A poor clearance at the back and Maro Bonsu-Maro had his first National League goal. It would be the only goal in the game.
Absolutely devastating defeat. Hamilton were the better team for most of it, really taking the game to ACFC and lacking only a stunning bit of footy from Tommy Semmy or Martin Bueno to win the thing. Massive moral benefits… but those are offset by the gutting loss. Auckland City stay undefeated and you’ve gotta admire the guts to find a way to win each and every week. They’re so bloody good, aye. So good. At least the Wanderers can get to sleep at nights knowing that if they play this way against Wellington Phoenix next week they’ll probably win 4-0.
Poor bloody WeeNix. Hamilton weren’t the only team to lose right near the end and Southern waited even longer for the killer strike in the capital. A 2-1 loss and that’s zero points from seven games now. The only teams the Wellington Phoenix haven’t lost to are Hamilton Wanderers and Hawke’s Bay United and that’s only because they haven’t played them yet (and will do so in the next couple weeks). 22 goals conceded in seven games and it doesn’t get any easier when there are mass changes to the XI every week either, let alone when they’re an academy team playing against grown-ass men. Having some help from the A-League squad last week was nice but they were all back with the senior team this time so that meant six changes.
Of course they’re going to be sloppy, particularly early and late in games, when there are substantial changes every week. Only Callan Elliot and Sam Sutton have started every game. No Calvin Harris this week either, whose college career in the States has come calling. Might be the last we see of him for a while on these shores… possibly ever.
Compare that to Southern who have an incredible eight dudes who’ve started every game. Their only change from the win over Tassie was Ben Wade in for a suspended Markus Fjørtoft, and included in those eight regulars is a fella called Garbhan Coughlan who rediscovered his scoring boots last week and, oh what do you know, he gave the visitors the lead with a shot that scooped up over the keeper and ended up being adjudged as an own goal – haven’t seen the goal so fingers crossed it was a real wild one, a proper OG, and not one of those debatable ones which everybody involved prefers ends up in the striker’s name.
Boyd Curry, who got credited with the own goal, responded with a fine header to equalise and it looked like the young Phoenix team might hang in there for their first point of the season. Damn sure woulda deserved it after all their battles. But right at the end Danny Ledwith did some amazing things and set up Coughlan for the tap-in (no taking this one away from him). The Irish striker went scoreless in Southern’s first five games but has three in the last two now and they’re rolling. Mad drama in the second minute of injury time but you may recall that SU had a bit of a cheeky habit of scoring decisive late goals last season as well. That’s how you know they’re feeling it. With 10 points overall they move level with Hamilton Wanderers for fourth place and that’s with a game in hand (albeit against Auckland City).
Eastern Suburbs have basically been flawless against the teams below them only to lose narrowly to the two teams ahead of them. Makes it pretty easy to put them into their proper place on the ladder but it also makes the next two months or so of games a bit weird. They can’t really prove much more until they play Team Welly or ACFC again, just gotta keep churning out the wins.
This week it was Waitakere United away from home… although they played it at McLennan Park in Papakura so not sure what’s up with that. Closer to Easts than it is to the Waitaks. It was West vs East in the Glorious South. Figure that one out. Also, despite it being a Waitakere home game it was Eastern Suburbs who got to work on the live streaming over on their Bookface page – which, fair enough, if they’re keen to take that on then absolutely go for it. Only Suburbs and Canterbury have really gone for it with the live streams but Suburbs in particular, theirs has gotten better each time and this was the best yet. Quality work, folks.
One change for the Lilywhites: Owen Parker-Price made his first start of the campaign, having come off the bench last week, in the midfield in place of Campbell Strong. All the usuals other than that. Meanwhile Waitakere recalled Alex Connor-McLean and had Jake Butler’s and David Parkinson’s services available to them again. They also had an exciting row of subs to choose from, with Andrew Abba, Oscar Browne and Sanni Issa all getting minutes off the bench.
Fair play to the Waitaks, it’s been an up and down season for them but after losing 4-0 to Hawke’s Bay last week they turned up fully focussed on putting in a better defensive display and, mate, they sure did. For the entirety of the first half they were left scraps to feed upon in terms of possession but they kept it sturdy, didn’t let the quick runs and sharp turns of the Suburbs forwards create any space. Honestly there weren’t even that many decent chances to think back upon as Easts tried too hard to score the perfect goal. Not too many teams have kept them out in the early stages of games, when their heavy press is at its best, so full credit to Chris Milicich’s lads for doing so.
It didn’t last forever. Suburbs were smarter about it in the second half and Andre De Jong finally broke the deadlock in the 59th minute with a long range effort on the run. Waitakere had a few moments after that, some of their best stuff, but when Eli Just was taken down in the box late on the ref pointed to the spot and ADJ, who missed a penalty last week, converted it for 2-0. Sanni Issa almost immediately snuck through the defence and based on his reaction he knew he ought to have pulled one back. But there wasn’t much time left anyway. Suburbs with their fourth clean sheet win of the season. ADJ climbing up to second on the top scorer’s charts with six goals. Waitakere with a fourth defeat, all by multiple goals, to go with one draw and two wins, both by multiple goals. Rocks or diamonds, as they say.
So… remember when Hawke’s Bay didn’t win any of their first five games? But they’d only played the five best teams so the Premmy Files theory was that they were way better than they were letting on and the easier schedule would prove that? Yeah well they won 4-0 against Waitakere United last time and this time they popped over the Cook Strait to Nelson where they put another four goals past Tasman.
Really quick start from HBU. They were 2-0 inside ten minutes thanks to Maxime Olivieri and Sam Mason-Smith. Then Jorge Akers made it 3-0 after half an hour. And they weren’t done there. Sho Goto got the fourth in the 34th. Bloody 4-0 up in the first half! It’s utter chaos.
It can be hard to stay focussed when you’re that far up so early though. Tasman, to their credit, came back out from the sheds looking to win back a bit of pride and they did exactly that after substitute Max Winterton pulled one back and then Ahmed Othman slotted from the penalty spot and with ten minutes to go they were within two. They almost made a right game of it too, but Big Mack Waite went and saved a second penalty in injury time. It might’ve been too late to get an equaliser even if it had gone in but still a relief for Brett Angell’s side to see it parried away. A 4-2 victory in the end. To be fair, Paul Ifill did have a hat-trick of goals disallowed for offside in the second half. He also apparently injured himself pretty badly though, so prayers up for Saint Ifill that he doesn’t miss too much time.
I guess you can’t be surprised that there were goals in this game. Hawke’s Bay have conceded twice or more in all but one game and Tasman’s goals against record is beaten only by Wellington Phoenix. Tasman, with six defeats from seven games, are now fairly well entrenched in ninth place while HBU are actually in range of fourth place now. It’ll be super interesting to see how they go against Southern next week.
And then we have the Oceania champs. Team Wellington with their final game before jetting off to the Club World Cup and it was at home to Canterbury United. You can kinda forgive them for having their minds on other things then… Mario Barcia was rotated out for Alex Palezevic while Eric Molloy stayed in there ahead of Henry Cameron. Not sure if those are in precaution for the trip to the UAE but it would make sense. Nate Hailemariam also came off the bench with Aaron Clapham starting again… and against his old team! No mates during those ninety minutes though, amigo.
Canterbury left George King on the bench for the first time this season but he ended up out there in the first half anyway after Adam Thurston was injured. Otherwise it was pretty much as expected. The Dragons haven’t travelled too well this current campaign, even their lone away win (3-2 over WeeNix) required a massive comeback against the worst team. So Team Welly having a decent first half made sense – it was only a fantastic performance from young keeper Conor Tracey that limited it to a single goal at the break, a goal scored by fullback Sean Liddicoat past his own defences.
But CU were better in the second half and got their reward through Maksym Kowal. His first goal of the season and about time too. Get him banging them away alongside Stephen Hoyle and the Dragons will strike fear in any defence… just maybe not next week because a late second yellow meant he was off with a couple minutes left and will be suspended for that when Canty host Waitak in a week’s time.
1-1 was the way it ended. Bit of a bummer for the TeeDubs to drop two more points at home, opening the door for Eastern Suburbs to go ahead of them while they’re out of the country. This was also the first time they’d been limited to a single goal. Gotta say Canterbury have a funny way of playing great when they’re losing and dead average when they’re winning. Lots of wasted opportunities this season but they should be chuffed with a point against Team Welly in Wellywood.
Sweet as, if you’ve been enjoying the scribblings on this here fine website then this is how you can support us to keep doing it all:
1 – Whack an ad whenever you read something decent
2 – Be a cool person and make a splash on Patreon