On Saturday, Waitakere moved into top spot with 19 points after a dramatic 3-2 injury time win over YoungHeart Manawatu at Whenuapai that saw the visitors slip to sixth. Auckland and Waitakere now have a six point buffer over the rest of the field to set the scene for next weekend’s mouth-watering derby crunch at Fred Taylor Park.
At Carisbrook, highflying Otago United edged seventh placed Hawke’s Bay United 1-0 to end a six year wait for a home win over the team from Park Island. Now in third place on 13 points, Otago United lead the chasing pack with just three points separating four clubs.
Elsewhere, 10-man Waikato FC earned their first points of 2010 with a 1-0 win over Canterbury United in Ngaruawahia. Former All White Jeff Campbell made his debut for the club in a victory that cuts the gap between Waikato and seventh place to just two points.
Waikato FC player-coach Che Bunce converted a penalty after team-mate Michael Gwyther was tripped in the Canterbury area in the 26th minute. But the home side were forced to work hard for their second win of the season after skipper Shaun van Rooyen was sent off midway through the second half by referee Peter O’Leary.
Defeat for Canterbury United was a rude awakening after the heroics of last week’s 4-0 triumph over Waitakere United and leaves Keith Braithwaite’s team in fifth place.
YoungHeart Manawatu’s mid-season form slump continued at Waitakere United, who snatched victory with a goal from former All Whites striker Brent Fisher five minutes into injury time.
Manawatu had earlier fallen behind to a coolly-taken finish from Fisher in the 34th minute but drew level through Seule Soromon just before the halftime break. Campbell Banks nosed YoungHeart in front six minutes into the second half after good build-up play by Soromon but Waitakere drew level when Tim Myers scored from an Allan Pearce cross with 12 minutes left. Manawatu hearts were broken when Fisher pounced for the winner after a goal mouth melee.
Elsewhere, Otago United edged Hawke’s Bay United 1-0 thanks to a 39th minute goal by Stu Kelly. In a tense match both sides’ squandered opportunities but it was Otago that emerged victorious despite a late Hawke’s Bay rally. It was Kelly’s 20th NZFC career goal in his 78th appearance in the competition and proved enough to secure Otago United’s place in the top four.
Defending champions Auckland City continued its sparkling season with yet another win. Midfielder Jason Hayne opened the scoring after just eleven minutes, finishing a move inspired by Matt Williams.
But Team Wellington achieved parity after in-form striker Greg Draper caught goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley in possession on 33 minutes. It was Draper’s sixth NZFC goal in just three matches.
However, Auckland City weren’t to be denied and they regained the lead ten minutes into the second half when Ivan Vicelich set up an easy chance for substitute Grant Young to score on 55 minutes.
Former Korean international Ki-Hyung Lee confirmed the win for Auckland when he curled a 25 metre free-kick beyond James Bannatyne with five minutes left.
Despite defeat, Team Wellington remains in fourth place.
Next week’s matches see Auckland City visit arch-rivals Waitakere United in the match of the round at Whenuapai. On Sunday, Hawke’s Bay United host Canterbury United at Park Island, Otago United face Team Wellington at Carisbrook, while in Palmerston North, YoungHeart Manawatu will be seeking a change of fortune at home when they entertain Waikato FC.
Story and photo courtesy nzfc.co.nz