Match Day 10

 Lower Hutt 1 – Western Suburbs 3

WS: Owen Parker-Price 11 (pen), Elijah Just 68, 90+2

LH: Ryan Kelly 21

 

Reporter: Tony Bissell

___________________

Wests Formation (4-3-3) LH Formation (5-3-2)

 

Isaac Tetteh

Alex Clayton                Mikey Faber            Nando Pijnaker               Dalton Wilkins

Elijah Just           Dom Wooldridge    Owen Parker-Price        

Matt Garbett                Mohamed Awad              Callum McCowatt

 

Wests Subs:

Nathaniel Hailemariam for Mohamed Awad (80 mins) – Straight swap

Xavier Green for Matt Garbett (83 mins) – Straight swap

Declan Edge was able to field a close-to-full-strength side for the trip to Lower Hutt, with Dom Wooldridge slotting into the number 6 role as cover for the injured Harry Edge.

Lower Hutt had managed to pinch a point at Endeavour on the opening day of the season after falling two goals behind early in that game.  This time, coach Steve Coleman appeared determined to keep the game tight and adopted a 5-3-2 formation, packing the final third and relying on fast breaks from his nippy forward duo of Sam Johnson and Ryan Kelly.

In the opening exchanges, LH’s ultra-defensive set-up provided them with no attacking outlet and effectively surrendered long periods of control to their opponents. Wests were composed in possession and happy to patiently pry for good openings rather than attempting miracle passes. The interchanging movement of the front trio of Callum McCowatt, Matt Garbett and Mohamed Awad was proving a real handful for the LH defence, and from one of Wests’ first attacks, Mohamed Awad was simply too sharp for his marker, drawing a foul in the box. Owen Parker-Price confidently stepped up and dispatched the resulting penalty into the roof of the net to give Wests a deserved lead.

Confidence was oozing through the Wests team, and the possession statistics must have been about 80:20 during the first 20 minutes of the game. However, there was then a major momentum shift as Isaac Tetteh was caught in possession, gifting Ryan Kelly with the easiest of equalisers. This created a degree of nervousness at the back for Wests, and LH looked to capitalise by tweaking their tactics and applying a much higher press.

As a result, the game became much more even in terms of both possession and chances. Elijah Just was thwarted by the LH keeper after a great break involving Callum McCowatt and Mohamed Awad, but then LH’s Sam Johnson had an equally good opportunity only to be denied by a fine redeeming save from Isaac Tetteh. Wests had further half-chances to Elijah Just and Matt Garbett, but the game was certainly delicately poised going to the break at 1-1.

The opening 15 minutes of the second half were extremely scrappy with LH’s high press continuing to disrupt Wests’ preferred style of play. The game then seemed to swing in LH’s favour as Dalton Wilkins was shown a yellow card, quickly followed by a red, for dissent and back-chat to the referee after a free-kick was harshly awarded against him.

Declan Edge immediately switched to a 4-3-2 formation, with Dom Wooldridge moving to “5” and Callum McCowatt shifting to “6”. However, rather than become more defensive with 10 men, the remaining players simply upped their game and commenced to dominate the remainder of the game. They were perhaps aided by tiring opposition whose high press efforts were beginning to take their toll.

Owen Parker-Price, Elijah Just and Callum McCowatt were now bossing the midfield, and with Alex Clayton and Dom Wooldridge bombing up the wings, LH started to look ragged. Wests regained the lead with a goal that demonstrated both great teamwork and individual brilliance. It started with excellent crisp passing between Dom Wooldridge, Owen Parker-Price, Callum McCowatt and Mohamed Awad, but there still didn’t seem like much was on when the ball arrived at Elijah Just’s feet. However, a neat drag-back, sharp turn and arcing left-foot shot had the net bulging and the crowd applauding.

Wests were now in full cry. LH were simply unable to respond to going behind again, as their attacks becoming infrequent and easily managed by the strong centre-back pairing of Mikey Faber and Nando Pijnaker. On the other hand, Wests seemed certain to add to their advantage creating a number of good openings, but Matt Garbett’s one-on-one was well saved, and Callum McCowatt blazed over after fine set-up play from Nathaniel Hailemariam and Alex Clayton.

Wests finally made the game safe deep in stoppage time, and it was another goal of the season contender from Elijah Just. He beat two LH players for pace on the right wing, nutmegged another, and then cut in towards the corner of the 18-yard box before unleashing a perfect left-foot curler into the far top corner, giving the keeper no chance.

Ultimately, this was deserved 3-1 win for Wests despite only dominating for the final half-hour when ironically they had been reduced to 10 men. As is often the case, the opposition was able to stifle Wests for reasonable periods, this time with concerted high press tactics. However, the draining nature of those tactics caused LH to tire and made them susceptible later in the game.

With Napier’s surprise 3-1 defeat to Karori, this win moves Wests to within 3 points of the league leaders. Wests travel to Havelock North on Queen’s Birthday Monday for the next round of the Chatham Cup and then entertain Wairarapa United at Endeavour on Sunday 10 June.

Player of the Day:

3 points – Elijah Just – Relatively quiet first half, but two pieces of second half brilliance to seal the win

2 points – Dom Wooldridge – Strong at both 6 and 5, showing his versatility after the red card re-shuffle

1 point – Mikey Faber – Dominant at the back, and forming a good partnership with Nando Pijnaker