The lads were determined to bounce back from last week’s disappointing result as we travelled to Kelburn Park to face Victoria University.
We knew how University would aim to play and we had our own game plan to execute on the narrow pitch at Kelburn Park.
The game started with little tempo as both sides attempted to bring the ball down and play it on the deck. University were the first side to settle and took the lead in the 11th minute.
A ball was played in behind the back four and their striker was left one on one with goalkeeper Sam Martin. The big goalkeeper came off his line to narrow the angle, only for the University player to calmly dink the ball over Martin and into the empty net.
We were forced into an early change as Steve Lyons was forced from the field with a calf injury. Scott Macandrew came on in his place and immediately settled into the game. He showed composure on the ball, defended excellently and demonstrated accurate decision making on both sides of the ball.
University had their tails up and enjoyed a good spell of possession. Martin made two very important saves during this period that kept us in the game. For the second week in a row we took too long to get going, and were being made to pay.
As the half was during to a close, we enjoyed our best period of the first 45 minutes. We put together a nice passing movement, which created a shooting opportunity for Lucian Colucci, whose fierce drive was parried by the University goalkeeper. The ball fell at the feet of Paul Clune who slammed the ball home to draw level. 1-1 at the break.
Ben Purser was introduced at half-time in place of Elliot Riley. After such a disjointed 1st half we believed the passing ability and quick feet of Purser could make the difference.
After some strong words at half-time, the lads started much brighter. We went forward with more purpose and intent and had started to turn the momentum.
Somewhat against the run of play University regained the lead. Some slack marking on the edge of the area allowed the University player to force a shot through the crowded area.
Martin saw it late and not even he could prevent the ball finding the bottom corner. 2-1 University after 55 minutes.
University extended their lead four minutes later. A corner was partially cleared, only for the ball to fall at the feet of an unmarked University player beyond the far post. He got his shot away early and made no mistake. 3-1 University and we needed to show our true character.
John O’Driscoll was enjoying a fine game at left back, only for his afternoon to be cut short from a cynical challenge. The University player, who had received a number of warnings from the referee up-ended O’Driscoll forcing him to land heavily on his shoulder. While only a yellow card prevailed, it is the injury to O’Driscoll which caused greater concern. He now faces a lengthy spell on the sideline courtesy of this challenge. University perhaps realised how lucky they were to still have 11 men on the pitch and promptly substituted the player involved.
Rohan Boyle came on in place of O’Driscoll and like Macandrew, he too showed much needed composure on the ball. He didn’t give the ball away once during his time on the pitch.
As we entered the last 20 minutes, we started to create more chances. Tom McCann was running at defenders with pace and purpose, George Frost showed wonderful energy and produced several pieces of genuine quality and Terry O’Donnell battled in midfield all afternoon.
It was from one of Frost’s pieces of excellent work that we should have pulled a goal back. He whipped in a wonderful ball, right on the six yard box at the feet of Clune. Unfortunately for Clune he could only smash the ball against the underside of the crossbar and the ball was eventually cleared.
We created several further genuine opportunities but we were running out of time. It just hadn’t been our day. University were awarded a penalty in the 92nd minute. The penalty was converted and we were left to live with a 4-1 loss.
Credit to University. They had a game plan and stuck to it. We had a game plan which we didn’t execute.
Despite the disappointing result, there were some positives to take away. George Frost was again excellent. His high performance levels are being sustained each and every week, Terry O’Donnell pressed well in midfield and produced several defence splitting passes. O’Driscoll was superb in all he did during his time on the pitch and man of the match Scott Macandrew played wonderfully well having entered the game at the 10 minute mark.
Equally as concerning as the result is the ever growing list of serious injuries we are currently enduring as a squad. Our strength and depth is certainly being tested.
We take a break from the league next week as we take on Upper Hutt in the Chatham Cup. A Cup run of substance was one of the pre-season goals the leadership group set themselves. We will pick ourselves up, take the learnings from the last few weeks and show necessary improvements to get back to the expected performance levels.
Thanks to all who were there supporting the team yesterday. We always value and appreciate your support.
Congratulations to both the Reserves (3-0) and the Third team (3-2) who enjoyed excellent wins yesterday. Well done lads.