We headed up the coast to take on Kapiti in search of a third win on the bounce. Kapiti are a spirited outfit and we knew a tough 90 minutes were in front of us.
Again the weather would play a part, constant rain had cut up the pitch, making it tricky for both sides to settle into any sort of rhythm. Kapiti adjusted to the conditions quicker and started playing some tidy one touch football through midfield.
Too often, their decision making in the final third was lacking and on the occasions where they did test the goalkeeper, Sam Martin was up for the challenge. He has been almost unbeatable in recent weeks and was continuing his fine form.
Kapiti were awarded a penalty in the 30th minute, after Matty Balmforth was correctly adjudged to have fouled the Kapiti striker on the edge of the area.
The Kapiti striker looked confident as he placed the ball. He smashed it towards the top corner, only for Martin to tip it onto the crossbar and we cleared the ball from danger. Kapiti failing to take their opportunity proved to be a crucial turning point in the match.
We started to play with better urgency. Terry O’Donnell and Andy Cochrane took control of midfield, George Frost was an effective threat on the right hand side and Tom Graham was proving to be a handful for the Kapiti central defenders.
It was Graham who thought he had put us in front when he headed home from a corner, only for the referee to award a foul against Nick Grice for holding in the area.
Games against Kapiti are always full of spice and this was no exception. The referee missed a Kapiti player putting his hand around the throat of George Frost. With the referee unsighted, the assistant put his flag up, indicating he saw the incident, only to call the referee over to tell him he hadn’t seen it either. A slightly bemusing few minutes with the Kapiti player going unpunished.
We had another corner right on the stroke of half-time and as Cochrane swung it in, it was Grice who was being held by the Kapiti defender and the referee pointed to the spot.
Clune stepped up and made no mistake as he slammed the ball into the roof of the net. A quality finish from the Irishman, putting us 1-0 up as we headed to the sheds for a well-earned break.
We spoke at half-time about having to do the hard work again. It was all or nothing for Kapiti. They needed a win to have any mathematical chance of avoiding relegation. We could not afford any complacency.
Kapiti again started the stronger of the two sides. They had increased their tempo and were getting into dangerous areas. Martin, though was thriving in the conditions and made a wonderful save with his feet to preserve our one goal advantage.
Graham, thought he had extended our lead, only for a late offside call from the referee’s assistant denying him his goal.
The game was being played at a frenetic pace and chances were flowing at both ends. We introduced Tom McCann, his pace in these conditions would surely cause the Kapiti defenders plenty of headaches.
It was McCann and Clune who combined for what should have been our second goal, only for us to overplay our hand and miss the opportunity to get a clear strike on goal. We needed a second goal and some breathing space.
Our second goal finally came in the 63rd minute. We again caught Kapiti on the break and it was again McCann and Clune at the heart of it. McCann drove at defenders on a trademark mazy run before testing the goalkeeper, and as the ball was parried, Kapiti failed to clear and Clune was on hand for a tidy right foot finish into the top corner. 2-0 Brooklyn.
This was Clune’s 50th goal for the 1st team. A wonderful achievement from such a committed and loyal club man. Congratulations Paul, fantastic effort.
Kapiti were never going to lie down, and if anything, our second goal sparked them into life. They drove forward in numbers, clearly with nothing to lose. They were piling on the pressure.
Their efforts were rewarded in the 72nd minute after another fine save from Martin, it was our turn to fail to clear our lines and Kapiti scrambled the ball over the line. 2-1 and Kapiti had earned an invitation back into the game.
We introduced Steve Lyons and Hamish Parker to strengthen our hold in midfield. Our defensive unit had been resolute for much of the afternoon. Joe Cruden, Matty Balmforth and Nick Grice were all outstanding in difficult conditions.
With time running down, we were still creating chances on the break. Lyons broke free from midfield with a neat piece of skill, before releasing Parker through on goal. Parker unleashed a fierce left footed drive, only for the goalkeeper to push it around the post.
We held the ball up from the resulting corner as we wound down the clock. The final couple of minutes passing without incident. The final whistle sounded and we were rewarded with our third win on the trot. The lads have been working very hard and are deserving of these results. I have never seen this group react to a win like this before. You could see just how much this meant to them.
Outstanding performances from Sam Martin who made some phenomenal saves, Joe Cruden who enjoyed his best performance of the season, Terry O’Donnell again dominated the midfield battle, Tom Graham’s pace and trickery caused Kapiti concern all afternoon and man of the match Nick Grice who stood up at crucial times throughout the encounter to keep our lead intact.
The win takes us up to 7th and with two games remaining we still have work to do. Maximum points could see us finish as high as 5th, while anything less could see us fall back into less desirable situations.
With our next scheduled opponents North Wellington playing in the Chatham Cup, we have a week off next weekend. We will use the break to refresh and refocus ahead of games against Tawa and North Wellington. It’s all in our hands now. We must finish the job.
Special thanks to those who travelled to provide support. It is greatly appreciated. Annie and I are so proud of the way the lads have been working. The turnaround in form and belief has been outstanding. The players deserve so much credit for the hunger and desire they have shown. Other sides have simply failed to match our intensity. We need to maintain these levels over the next two encounters.