Dunno if you heard but Waitakere’s kids scored seven goals last week. Eastern Suburbs, they didn’t even play last week. Or the week before. And the week before that they lost 3-1 to Team Wellington so that’s a bit of a time to sit and stew on that one. A quick point on Suburbs stewing… they began the season with a 5-0 win over Hawke’s Bay. They returned from the Xmas break with a 4-1 win over HBU again and won 6-1 the week after down in Southern. When Suburbs have time to rest up, they’re ridiculous.
Couple changes here. Tim Payne was suspended after his red card against the TeeDubs so that gave Nando Pijnaker the chance to start with Kalvin Kalua in central defence having only played off the bench since his injury. Alex Clayton played at right back instead of Mike Built, while Mohammad Awad replaced Owen Parker-Price. Important thing was that they had the trio of terrors up front: Callum McCowatt, Eli Just, and Andre De Jong. Meanwhile Waitakere didn’t have Kris Carpenter who has been a useful CB in recent weeks. Matt Wood with his first start instead. They just keep on getting younger, aye? Also Andrew Abba was injured so Dane Schnell came in to start, otherwise it was the same crew that got it done last week.
But yeah… Suburbs are a different beast altogether. Other than one 0-0 draw with Tasman on telly, they’ve routinely dispatched the teams below the top four. Andre De Jong put them in front from the penalty spot and then he scored five minutes later because Suburbs are always up for the double strike. Callum McCowatt made it three just before the half. Rightio then.
Each of those two added another goal in the second half before Oscar Browne got a consolation with a little over ten minutes left. 5-1 to Eastern Suburbs and this one, predictably, was never really a contest. Suburbs were slick and creative and the Waitak Juniors couldn’t keep up. It’s a win that means Suburbs are three points clear in second despite that defeat to Team Welly. With Tasman and Southern to follow they shouldn’t really have any troubles wrapping up a home semi, at least not when they’re playing like that.
And here you go, you can watch the whole second half via bookface livestream!
This game pretty well sums up where we’re at with the league at the moment. These half-rounds are a bit of a pain to follow and the momentum of the competition has really been drained by them, especially since the top four is locked and loaded already and only the WeeNix can finish last and there isn’t a lot to play for in the middle. Waitakere have decided they’ll blood their best academy players instead and while that’s useful in the long run, it doesn’t do much for the state of the competition at the moment. Last thing we need in kiwi sports is the epidemic of tanking like we see in the United States – no draft picks on offer in Aotearoa.
Old mate here’s always got a bone to pick but I kinda love it. Declan’s a revolutionary. It ain’t exactly subtle taking cracks at opposition teams here but it is true – right now only four teams are legit fully focussed about and that’s an issue with the comp. Although the way I see it, this is a scheduling thing. Dragging the rounds out when half the league is waiting for the end is just bad news. But I love me some Premmy Files so no more negativity.
On that note, I’ll refrain from criticising the Sky Sports telly schedule again but suffice to say that of the two games this week, Hawke’s Bay United versus Tasman United was not the one I’d have preferred to have in the limelight. At this point, with fixtures so disjointed and the top four already sorted, it really feels like some teams are just shrugging their way to the finish line. Which is even more than we can say for HBU’s defence in recent weeks. So at least this game gave us some late drama to make up for it all.
HBU’s season has basically been held together, in as much as it’s held together at all (I’m sorry for being a bit rough, but I really believed in the Bay this season and that defence has just been a disaster), by the goals of Sam Mason-Smith. Utterly excellent all season, having now started all 16 games to date. And he’s scoring a goal a game, the legend, more on that later. But those last two games on the fixture list might be tough because, well…
Yeah, so one last hurrah for the top scorer coming into week 19. Also of note is that Mack Waite was back in goal after Alex Britton started the last four (and conceded 21 goals… though he can mostly blame his defence for that). And with all the defensive drama, here was the mastermind solution from Brett Angell: don’t pick any defenders. They did have James Marsh to be fair but Birhanu Taye was out injured so Cam Lindsay was back in the backline, while Sho Goto played left back having usually been a winger this season, and Jorge Akers is a fellow winger turned wingback although at least he’s been playing there the whole time. One of the bright spots too. We also had Paul Ifill with a return to the starting lineup and he was surrounded by a bunch other attack-minded players. Karan Mandair, as the holding mid, had plenty of responsibility there. Another bright spot for this team and an outside bolter for the U20 World Cup squad.
Tasman made a change at keeper with Nick Stanton putting Keegan Smith on the bench after five straight starts. And with Kiernan Hughes-Mason missing his first game and Tom Hickey having left these glorious shores (Sam Ayers was unavailable too), this was a bit of an undermanned Tassie team, playing just their second game in a month. But they did have one boost and that was Liam MacDevitt making his first start since transferring from Southern.
Early doors and it was HBU making most of the running and the unstoppable Paul Ifill pulling strings. Always a pleasure and a privilege to witness Saint Paul in action. But the opening goal? Nah that one was a special straight from the right boot of L-MacD. Pretty on brand from the HBU defence but can’t fault the strike. Beauty of a goal.
He possibly should have scored again just before the break too.
Tasman have been much better since the league resumed in 2019 but they weren’t up to much in the midfield considering some of the blokes they were missing. HBU continued to find opportunities and it was a matter of time until they got one to stick. That time was the 57th minute and the matter was Sam Mason-Smith’s left boot from about half a yard out.
Ifill was involved in most things for HBU while Max Olivieri was a menace as well and even young Luis Toomey chipped in a few times. But of course it was Mason-Smith who was carrying the heavy artillery. In a game perhaps lacking in much grit but making up for that with a nothing-left-to-lose cavalier attitude towards attacking, Hawke’s Bay gave their fans what they were wanting to see with a couple minutes left. Paul Ifill picked off a stray pass from the Tassie defence and fed in SMS, whose finish on the run from the edge of the area was pure STRIKER.
Looked like that goal had it won but there was still another act in this play. Pushing forward down the right wing, MacDevitt nearly got on the end of a whip into the box but Cam Lindsay got his head to it first. Didn’t do enough with it however and with Waite unable to claim it, that meant Fox Slotemaker of all people had a loose ball at his feet. Fair reward for carrying his run into the penalty area and the big defender went pop into the back of the net. 2-2 the final score.
Big deal for Mason-Smith. 16 goals in 16 games this season, which is the same amount that Emiliano Tade ended up with last season. He’s a couple clear at the top of the golden boot standings although with the way that Eastern Suburbs bang them away, not sure that’ll last – McCowatt and ADJ are both on 14 while Garbhan Coughlan is just in range on 12 goals and Marty Bueno’s on 11. Still, he’s been the best striker in the league in 2018-19 and without his goals things would be bloody gruesome. Full credit to the lad and hope we see him again next season.
Quick word of praise for Fox Slotemaker too. Huge goal for him and a deserved bit of limelight for a guy who goes about his job at CB with poise and control. Here’s a young kiwi defender with a big future. Also this goal had the inglorious title of being the fiftieth (50th!) that HBU have conceded this season.
Doesn’t do much interesting to the table but with a couple games left for every team there’s some funk on offer for placings in the bottom half if any of those teams care enough to really go for it. Next week we’re back into regular five-game weekends with all teams having two more games remaining.
Got some OFC Champions League action for you now, lovely reader. Nothing but the good stuff as Team Wellington booked their place in the quarters in absolute cold-blooded style with a 13-0 win over Kiwi FC (Samoa). Honestly, it was 6-0 at HT and only got worse from there.
This was a rotated Team Welly side too. Marcel Kampman got a start in goal, while Henry Cameron came back in and we also got first starts for new old signings Joel Stevens and Bill Robertson. Yeah, Team Welly signed Bill Robertson. Needed some more defensive cover after Scott Hilliar and Justin Gulley left and Bill Robertson was an ex-player who wasn’t doing anything in particular since leaving Waitakere United in their cull of anybody over the age of 26 so there you go. Makes sense.
However the star of the day was Ross Allen. The Guernsey Gunner. The fella scored six goals because scoring goals is what he does. No matter the weather, no matter the continent, no matter the opponent. Ross Allen simply scores goals. Six of them against Kiwi FC. Nati Hailemariam also got a hat-trick while Dan Mulholland came off the bench to score twice. Joel Stevens and Henry Cameron got the other two. Also young fella Tiahn Manuel got a decent run off the bench which was cool.
Wanna hear something funny? That was a new record win for this stage of the competition (in this format) but it only lasted about a day. Auckland City played Tupapa Maraerenga (Cook Islands) and similarly mixed it up by given Reuben Parker a game in goal, as well as starts for Alfie Rogers, Darren White, Yousif Ali, Reid Drake, and Omar Guardiola. Stretching out the squad. It took twenty minutes to find a goal until Guardiola struck and after Tavano and Guardiola again had hit the net it was 3-0 at the half. Oh mate, we were just getting started.
David Browne came on for Cam Howieson at HT break and it was all over. He scored a ripper of a goal straight away and then Micah Lea’alafa came on and somebody should have called the police because that’s too much skill and creativity to just have lying around. And a little later Maro Bonsu-Maro came on and there are no more words. Guardiola scored in the 57th minute for his hatty, then there were three goals in three minutes… yeah whatever. No reason to go all in because we’ll be here all day. It ended 15-0. Guardiola scored three. Tavano scored three. Bonsu-Maro scored four. Lea’alafa scored two. David Browne scored two. And Dan Morgan got one as well. They scored 12 goals in the second half and ten of those in the last half hour.
Team Welly closed it out with a 3-0 win over Erakor Golden Star. Doing the business with goals from Jack-Henry Sinclair (x2) and Ross Allen. Not sure if you heard about Ross Allen: he scores goals. Really had to work for it though. It was 0-0 at half-time before JHS finally broke it open with a stunner from range ten minutes after the resumption, then he scored another with twenty to play, then Allen came off the bench to get the third. All goods.
City closed things out with a 6-0 win over Solomon Warriors, scoring four in the first half and then a couple in second half injury time to polish it off. The win meant a home quarter regardless of how much, in fact a draw would have been fine with that crazy goal difference. Manickum scored twice, then Browne, Tavano, Lea’alafa, and Hudson-Wihongi all scored as Ramon Tribulietx returned to the starting XI that began the first game of the tourney.
Team Welly polished off their group stage with three wins from three scoring 18 goals and conceding zero. ACFC polished their group stage off with three wins from three scoring 23 goals and conceding one. Both will get home quarters. Now we head back to the Premmy for the rest of that season before worrying about the business end of the Champions League. Fire up.
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