Otago United's drought has broken, with a valiant 1-nil
away win over Wellington at Dave Farrington Park in their ASB
Premiership football match in Wellington yesterday.
A splendid start had Morgan Day hammer a weak clearance 25m
back past keeper Scott Basalaj, only for the ball to rebound
off Wellington's right upright. It was just the injection
Otago needed, and while Wellington fought back and mounted
some well-built attacks, Otago created other chances that
could have increased the scoreline. Otago's winner came after
83 minutes of toil and endeavour, harnessing the pace of Joel
Stevens, who latched on to a headed clearance by Tim Horner,
and as Alec Solomons - under pressure from Otago's Jude
Fitzpatrick - mis-headed, young Stevens raced clear and
calmly took a touch before sliding the ball past Basalaj.
Yet it was not a match for the faint-hearted, and both
coaches, Wellington's Matt Calcott and Otago's Murray,
prowled about in the technical area like caged lions.
Wellington worked the flanks well, as Tom Biss and Cory
Chettleburgh buzzed around the unpredictable talent of
Solomon Islands striker Henry Fa'arodo. But immense games
from Matt Joy, Craig Ferguson, Thomas Connor and Tristan
Prattley - despite an injury from a fierce clattering -
closed down chances, and a combination of brave tackling and
blocking frustrated the home side.
Horner never missed a challenge or header, and it was his
booming 30m headed clearance that set up Otago's breakaway
that led to the goal. Both sides were guilty of giving away
possession cheaply, but in the absence of Ant Hancock,
Stevens added the element of pure pace around strike partner
Having said that, Wellington's tall centreback Solomons
revelled against the many high balls Otago pumped forward,
and might have been man of the match but for that contested
mis-header that allowed Stevens to race away and score before
performing his victory roll. Burgess had a headed chance go
wide in front of goal, while Victor da Costa was buried in
the midfield boiler room for much of the game but wriggled
free at one stage and only a strong recovery tackle stopped
the Frenchman from shooting. Seamus Ryder zipped around
plugging gaps and launching threatening runs that demanded
full attention and some tough tackles from Wellington - one
by Tom Doyle looked a certain yellow card.
Murray's substitutes also put in worthy shifts. Benjudah
Fitzpatrick replaced Burgess with 20 minutes to go, and Sam
Mepham ably took over from Day in the 51st minute. A
delighted Murray praised his side's performance.
''Let's hope this is the start of our season now. We have
deserved better but now have the taste of success."