Football: Five goals, five red cards in Palmerston North

Otago United won a bizarre national league match that featured a spate of red cards yesterday.

The goal tally - five - equalled the number of red cards issued by referee Nick Waldron as both sides lost their discipline.

Otago coach Richard Murray said the game was ''a strange one''.

''We had several players missing, yet played some of our best football this season to earn a dominant 4-0 lead.''

Missing from the Otago side, for various reasons, were Tim Horner, Ant Hancock, Morgan Day, Joel Stevens, Tristan Prattley (now with Waitakere) and Peter Evans.

Luckily, the Otago youth team also played in Palmerston North, also winning 4-1, so there were spare players available.

Otago took the field determined to avenge a 3-0 loss to Manawatu earlier this season.

It was arguably a normal league match until players lost their discipline and referee Waldron entered centre stage.

In the last 15 minutes, three Manawatu players - Alex Rufer, top scorer Tom Mosquera and Nathan Cooksley - were sent from the field for various indiscretions.

Some indiscipline also hit Otago defenders Tom Connor and Matt Joy, who were sent for early showers themselves, in the remaining minutes.

There was much to commend the performance of the under-strength Otago side, particularly as the players had left Dunedin at 6.30am, reaching Palmerston North via Christchurch, and faced a bus trip back to Wellington after the game.

Murray said disciplined team shape allowed Otago to compete well in the first hour of the game.

Seamus Ryder was fouled as he jinked into the Manawatu box and a penalty was awarded. Aaron Burgess buried it to open the scoring after 10 minutes.

Otago played efficient football, soaking up Manawatu pressure in the heat, and replying with sharp breakaways.

Centreback Jude Fitzpatrick earned man of the match status as he bottled up Manawatu's star striker, Seule Soroman.

Joy, Connor and Craig Ferguson showed top form, often pushing forward to support their team-mates. In midfield, Ryder, Victor Da Costa, Aajay Cunningham, Sam Mepham and Scott Gannon won good possession and slid passes forward to Burgess and Regan Coldicott.

As Manawatu failed to harness wind advantage, it was Coldicott who pounced on a defensive error to make it 2-0.

Fifteen minutes later, Coldicott did it again with pace and a cool finish.

Cunningham and Da Costa also made penetrating hit-and-runs from midfield. Cunningham was fouled as he drifted past defenders in the penalty area. Burgess calmly dispatched another penalty for a 4-0 scoreline.

Amidst the flurry of red cards, team shapes vanished, and Soroman scored Manawatu's token goal.

Murray, understandably delighted Otago scored its second win of the season, could only stress the fact his side played good football.


ASB Premiership
The scores

Otago United 4
Aaron Burgess 2, Regan Coldicott 2

Manawatu 1
Seule Soroman

Halftime: Otago 1-0.