Joel Stevens shows his scoring style at training at Tahuna Park. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Otago United striker Joel Stevens was the toast of his side
last week but he knows he must continue to do his job.
Stevens scored the only goal of the game against Wellington
last Sunday, five minutes before the final whistle, to give
Otago United its first victory of the season.
After six games, it was a much-needed entry in the win column
and one the young striker felt was richly deserved.
''It was a relief for us, to be honest, and there is a lot
more confidence in the boys now,'' he said.
''We probably did not play that well last week and we have
played much better in other games and lost. But that is
football, I suppose.
''We have not been playing badly, really. We play a lot
harder than other teams as perhaps in some games we are not
as good as them. So we have been trying to grind out results.
''What has been happening to us is that we get behind in
games and in the last few minutes go to try to look for an
equaliser and get caught out. There is no point holding back
when you might be able to get a draw at least.''
Stevens (17) has just finished at Otago Boys' High School,
and is weighing up his future.
Into his second season with Otago United, he has been invited
to a New Zealand under-20 training camp in Auckland next
The under-20 national side will play a series of qualifiers
next year and, if it makes it through as the winner of the
Oceania section, it will travel to Turkey in the middle of
the year for the finals.
Stevens started playing football when he was about 5 for
Melchester Rovers, and then moved to Green Island when he
started to get serious about the game.
By the time he was heading for high school he was invited by
coach Malcolm Fleming to train with the senior side and did
not look out of place. In 2010, he was selected for the Asia
Pacific Football Academy in Lincoln and spent a year on a
full scholarship at the academy.
''It was good with the quality of coaching we got. I improved
a lot over that year. I ended up only having a year up there.
New guys were coming in all the time so I thought I would
Stevens is getting used to the pace of the national league
and is happy be playing up front.
''Just having that experience makes things a wee bit easier.
I am starting to feel a little bit more comfortable when I
''When I was at the academy they had me everywhere apart from
centreback. But I like to be an attacking midfield or
Stevens will be keen to again get on the scoresheet tomorrow
against a Waikato team which has been through plenty of drama
in the past couple of weeks.
Coach Declan Edge was sacked last month and eight of
Waikato's players have walked out in sympathy.
New coach Mark Cossey, who engineered Waikato's first win of
the season against Manawatu on December 2, has been forced to
bring in some new players.
But turmoil often brings out a united spirit, so Waikato can
not be taken lightly.
Otago needs to build momentum after its first win and will
know a win over Waikato will get it off the foot of the
Otago United v Waikato
Forsyth Barr Stadium, tomorrow, 1pm
Otago United: Liam Little, Tristan Prattley (captain),
Jude Fitzpatrick, Matt Joy, Seamus Ryder, Victor da Costa,
Ant Hancock, Aaron Burgess, Sam Mepham, Tom Connor, Tim
Horner, Andy Ridden, Joel Stevens, Regan Coldicott, Craig
Ferguson, Morgan Day.
Waikato: Matt Upton, Josh Greene, Eder Franchini, Sam
Jasper, Ryan Thomas, Robbie Greenhalgh, Rory Turner, Jack
Hobson-McVeigh, Neil Mouncher, Sam Margetts, Alexi Caroama
Varela, Jordan Shaw, Hone Fowler, Adam Wallis, Ray How, Mike