IT WASN’T the prettiest win of the season but Jennian Homes Team Gisborne did the business 4-0 in a clinical way at Childers Road Reserve yesterday.
They never looked like losing this Pacific Premiership football game, despite a plucky effort by the young Port Hill United team from Napier.
Brett Derry’s well-drilled, efficient side now lead the title race with 34 points from 12 games. Their closest rivals are Taradale Prems, two points back. They beat Napier Marist 1-0 in Napier. In other games, Taradale AFC beat Maycenvale 3-2 and Napier City Rovers beat Havelock 4-0.
Derry had every reason to be pleased with the three points. Port Hill came to Gisborne to defend and try to catch the home side on the break.
They did so remarkably well for 40 fiercely fought opening minutes. It was an uneasy time for the home supporters, even though defenders Liam Ryan, Josh Bates, Daniel Taylor and Craig Christophers dominated in their own half.
With Taylor, in his final game for the side before returning to England, again giving a faultless performance as pivot, they snuffed out most of the Port Hill breakaway raids.
The defenders also fed constructive passes to midfielders, Argentinian youngster Juan Francis, Lytton High School student Cai Maclean, the always-reliable Nicky Land and catch-me-if-you-can flank specialist Max Logan.
All four did their jobs well. Logan and Francis were dangerous wingers and Land’s work-rate was as high and productive as ever. Alongside Land, the lean, lanky Maclean showed that he has inherited some of the talent of a grand-uncle who played for Ross County in the Scottish Highland League about 50 years ago.
In naming Maclean man of the match, Derry said: “I was particularly pleased with the way Cai settled down and contributed so much in an unselfish, constructive way. He defended well, built up attacks with accurate passing and was effective in attack and defence.
‘‘It is good to see young players coming through and Cai certainly showed today that he has an old head on young shoulders.
“Full marks to Port Hill. It wasn’t an easy game for them but they fought hard and they, too, had some good young players on view. That bodes well for the game and the Pacific Premiership.”
Port Hill coach Murray Loader was particularly pleased with the battling performance from his team in the first half and disappointed that they were caught in a tangle to concede the goal that gave Gisborne a 1-0 interval lead.
It could have been all over by then but for the heroics of visiting keeper Stu McVeigh and hard-tackling defenders Shay Wall, Tim Damon, Adam Glassport, Ryan McIvor and Tony Bartling.
Gisborne strikers Kieran Ryan and Albert Geuze were always dangerous and Logan was particularly elusive. His darting runs took him into good goal-scoring positions but he was closely marked by classy right-back Wall and the goals would not come . . . until a free-kick about 10 metres outside the player-packed penalty area.
Several heads looked for contact, without any real proof of a deflection. When the ball eluded the lot of them and ended in the net, Logan’s claim was backed up by the match officials . . . 1-0.
The opener was followed by another somewhat lucky goal for the home side. A defender had a through ball covered, but missed it completely and Geuze thought it was an early Christmas present. He was on to it in a flash and gave McVeigh no chance . . . 2-0.
Francis made the points safe in the 67th minute — although Gisborne never looked like losing — when he scored from close range . . . 3-0.
Substitutes David Ure, Nik Somerton and Jared McMillan came on and showed the depth in the squad with sound performances.
All three settled in quickly. McVeigh made a great low, diving save from Ure. Somerton split the defence for McMillan to hammer in an angular drive but McVeigh narrowed the angle well and the shot flashed wide.
In the closing minutes, a Bates header from a Logan corner looked net-bound until McVeigh tipped it over the bar.
Back came Logan to take the corner and this time Somerton got on the end of it to complete the scoring.
The game was well controlled by referee Rob Whitley and assistants Sam Parkin and Greg Fisher.