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Wellington take play-off chase to the wire

An injury-time winner for the second week in a row by Team Wellington midfielder Michael Fifii will mean a nervy final round of matches for both Otago United and Wellington two weeks from now.
Fifii – who scored a dramatic late winner over Waitakere two weeks ago – repeated the feat against Waikato FC, an effort that catapulted Wellington into fourth with a slender 1 point advantage over Otago who slipped to fifth.
Otago now face a must-win showdown with YoungHeart Manawatu on March 13 in Dunedin if they hope to qualify for the play-offs. Team Wellington will know what is required of them when they face Canterbury United the next day in Christchurch.
An easy 4-1 win over Hawke’s Bay saw Waitakere United return to the top of the NZFC after YoungHeart Manawatu held Auckland City 1-1 in Palmerston North today. Hawke’s Bay United was no match for Waitakere with the hosts romping to a victory that gives them a 1 point lead over Auckland.
In Christchurch, Canterbury United made it a double derby delight when they defeated arch rivals Otago United 2-0 at English Park to climb into third spot. Canterbury’s win catapulted the Dragons to 18 points with two games in hand on their nearest challengers Otago United and Team Wellington, with Wellington slotting into fourth after their last gasp 3-2 win over Waikato FC at Ngaruawahia.
Auckland – with two games in hand on Waitakere – were made to work hard by Manawatu who opened the scoring courtesy of Campbell Banks on 22 minutes. The in-form Jason Hayne levelled the scores after 38 minutes to extend Auckland’s unbeaten run to eleven NZFC matches.
The result has all but ended YoungHeart’s semi-final chances unless the Palmerston North outfit can win both of their final matches and hope results elsewhere go their way.
At Fred Taylor Park, Waitakere skipper Jake Butler delivered a match winning performance as his team swept aside an injury depleted Hawke’s Bay. Waitakere United’s Fiji international striker Roy Krishna opened the scoring on the half-hour mark with Butler scoring two goals in three minutes to all but wrap up victory before halftime.
Hawke’s Bay’s chances of a comeback dwindled when goalkeeper Richard Gillespie was sent off on the hour mark only for Butler to spurn the chance of a hat-trick when replacement gloveman Shaun Peta saved his spot-kick.
Andrew Abba scored a late consolation goal for the Bay – his fourth strike of the season – only for Dakota Lucas to restore Waitakere’s three goal advantage deep into time added on.
Team Wellington edged Waikato FC 3-2 in an entertaining game at Centennial Park, Ngaruawahia. Wellington’s Golden boot contender Greg Draper opened the scoring after just 42 seconds to give the visitors the perfect start to the match.
Waikato FC restored parity after a one-two between Shaun van Rooyen and Jeff Campbell gave Campbell space to equalise with a shot from 20 metres after 18 minutes. All White midfielder Andy Barron gave Wellington the lead six minutes later when he struck home from a half-volley from close range but Waikato FC skipper van Rooyen levelled the scores on 41 minutes. Fifii – Wellington’s hero against Waitakere – grabbed Wellington’s win with a header over NZFC debutant Scott Robinson three minutes into time added on.
Canterbury United completed a rare NZFC derby double over Otago United thanks to second half strikes by Tom Lancaster and Aaron Clapham. A scoreless first half that saw Canterbury skipper Dan Terris substituted with a suspected broken collar bone burst into life when Lancaster scored his fifth goal of the season on 67 minutes.
Aaron Clapham – the subject of transfer speculation during the week – completed Canterbury’s joy when he converted a 78th minute penalty after he was upended in the penalty box.
In the Lion Foundation National Youth League Auckland-Manukau edged Waikato FC in a nine goal thriller after Waikato FC finished the match with just seven players. The 5-4 winning margin saw Auckland-Manukau climb one place to second where they trail Northern Conference table-toppers Waitakere United on goal difference. On Saturday, Waitakere defeated bottom placed Hawke’s Bay United 4-0 thanks to a James Lawson double, Jade Mesias and Kelly Martin.
In the Southern Conference, Team Wellington enjoyed its first win of the season when they defeated YoungHeart Manawatu 6-0 at Memorial Park, Palmerston North. The win sees Team Wellington climb to second place after Otago United lost 0-2 to Canterbury United. Canterbury sits atop the Southern Conference with six points from two games while Otago fall to third on goal difference. YoungHeart Manawatu are winless after two rounds.
There is only one NZFC fixture next weekend with Hawke’s Bay United entertaining Canterbury United at Park Island, Napier, on Saturday 6 March, 2010, kick-off 12.00pm.
Story and photo courtesy NZF Media
For the latest NZFC news visit www.NZFC.co.nz

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