FOOTBALL - YOUNG United striker Stu Cranswick scored twice, the second a 30-metre volley in extra time, to give his side a 3-2 Bailey Cup final win against Gisborne Boys’ High School here on Saturday.
With the scores level at 2-2 after 90 minutes, the game could have swung either way. But four minutes into the additional half-hour, Cranswick’s wonder strike sealed the match.
It was as good a goal as has been seen at the Childers Road Reserve for many years and gave brilliant young goalkeeper Jacob Moorcroft no chance at all.
Moorcroft had made two spectacular diving saves to foil Cranswick and strike-partner Corey Adams when they broke clear and unleashed hard shots.
One of the biggest and most enthusiastic crowds of the season was rewarded with a spectacular game which could have gone either way.
It was a special game for Corey Adams as he lined up alongside father Chris, who came into Gisborne United team again at fullback and gave a good account of himself before going off injured late in the second half.
But it was another member of the Adams dynasty who set the game alight in the fourth minute.
Boys’ High striker Matt Adams won the ball in midfield and sent livewire Jesse Sadlier away on the right wing. When the cross came in, Adams controlled it and made no mistake.
The lead lasted 16 minutes. Mount Albert Grammar striker Corey showed why he has done so well in northern football circles by beating four players on a mazy run.
Boys’ High scrambled the ball away for a corner but when it came into the crowded penalty box, veteran fullback Jim Holden, who had a stormer, banged in the equaliser.
For the rest of the first half the game was played at a fast pace, with Boys’ High player-coaches Dave Watson and Jason Scott once again in top form.
Watson had the defence of Cheauxyan Makau-McPhee, Christian Tafau and Daniel Ray working like a well-oiled machine.
This quartet provided a steady supply of accurate passes to the midfield of Kory Thomas, Jesse Sadlier, Jared McMillan, Scott, and the tricky Josh Harris on the wing.
Matt Adams was the target man and the midfielders were always willing to surge forward so that when the team were on attack, the formation would invariably include several of the midfielders.
Harris and McMillan were dangerous and Dane Thompson and Fraser Eddowes gave a good account of themselves when they came on.
United’s defence had a big say in their eventual extra-time victory.
Holden, in addition to opening the scoring, turned up again and again just when needed to clear dangerous attacks.
Young centrebacks Jonathon Purcell and Kieran Venema dominated the aerial traffic, and there was plenty of it coming in from Harris, McMillan and Sadlier.
It became an even tougher assignment when Watson moved up into attacking mode late in the game as Boys’ High launched a spectacular all-out assault.
There was chaos in the school defence in the 71st minute when an inswinging corner from Chris Adams was nudged into the net as bodies scrambled to make contact. United fans’ cheers were silenced when referee Ben Chisholm consulted his assistant Greg Fisher, whose upraised flag suggested something was wrong.
It turned out that the corner had to be re-taken as the ball had not been entirely in the marked area first time round.
Chris Adams, a magician on the dead-ball kicks, sent in the ball and once again had the students’ defence scrambling to clear. But Cranswick was first to the loose ball and banged it home for a 2-1 lead.
With midfielders Tom Watson-Meek, player-coach Dean Wrigley, Aaron Graham and Charlie Priday using the ball well and working back to help in defence when necessary, it looked as if United would hold on to their lead.
The addition of hard-working midfielders Kim Perano and Tim Wright helped the cause as they added vitality to the side just as those young GBHS legs appeared to be dictating play again.
Sideline manager Marty Ryan and co-coaches Watson and Scott made changes, the most significant being to push young Makau-McPhee up on to the wing where he and Harris interchanged and stretched the United rearguard.
In the 77th minute it looked like a magical move as young Makau-McPhee hit a stunning 20m volley that looked as if it was going to uproot the net . . . a great goal.
Extra time produced a tremendous spectacle from two sides who did the game proud and showed the Eastern League first division consists of an exceptional group of teams for such a small district.
Strikers Corey Adams and Cranswick were the match-winners and they made a dynamic attacking duo.
But while the lasting memory will be of the spectacular goals by the young players, great saves by both goalkeepers and tremendous defending by both teams, I spared my man-of-the-match accolades for a few veterans, in each team.
For Boys’ High, Watson and Scott were again the playmakers, battling courageously with a good group until the 120 minutes were up.
For United, Chris Adams, Holden, Wrigley and goalie Grant Jones were inspirational.
So, too, were the officials, Chisholm, Fisher and Tony Lee.
They helped make this a game nobody at the reserve on Saturday will ever forget.