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Wrigley a one-game Massive fan


Gisborne United coach Dean Wrigley would like Thistle Massive to do to Wainui Sharks what they did to his team.

Coach John Stirton’s Massive are out of the Eastern League 1 title race, but they love a good football stoush with old rivals United. So it wasn’t entirely surprising when they lifted their game to beat the competition leaders 1-0 at Childers Road Reserve on Saturday.

Wrigley only hopes they can do the same when they play Sunshine Brewing Wainui Sharks at Wainui this Saturday.

The Sharks beat Gisborne Boys’ High School 5-0 on the Rectory ground at the weekend and are only a point behind Heavy Equipment Services United. Both teams have two games to play. United play Lytton High School on Saturday and then Thistle Reserves in their last match.

If Carpet Court Thistle Massive beat Wainui and United beat Lytton, the title would be decided this weekend. A draw with Massive would not end Wainui’s title hopes, but the Sharks would have to score a hatful of goals in their last game, against Lytton on the Lytton pitch.

If both United and Wainui were to win this weekend, the last game for United could be tricky. All season, Thistle Reserves have had to give up one, two or three players at halftime whenever the first team have played at home. With the Pacific Premiership over, the flow of players could go the other way, and the Reserves could get a boost in playing strength.

Against Massive on Saturday, United looked likely early on.

“Everyone played quite well in the first half,” Wrigley said.

“We should have been three or four up at halftime but we couldn’t score.

“Freak (Raymond Rickard) made two or three really good saves for them in the first half; one from Craig Christophers, I don’t know how he got to it — a half-volley from about the penalty spot. It was goal-bound all the way and he managed to flick it around the post for a corner. He made a good save off Stu Cranswick, too.

“They scored 10 minutes into the second half. A cross came in and Kieran Ryan picked it up on the half-volley. It was a good finish from eight to 10 metres out.”

United had a chance to equalise when a penalty was awarded in the last minute of the game, but Cranswick’s spot-kick was saved.

Wrigley said it was one of those games where they could have played for another hour and not scored, even though they dominated much of the possession.

Standout players for United included the Bristow brothers Andrew, in a defensive midfield role, and James, who took Matt McFatter’s place at leftback.

“Matt badly damaged his Achilles tendon at training last week,” Wrigley said.

“It’s been X-rayed but the swelling was too much

. . . it’s in a cast until the swelling goes down.”

The injury occurred during the game near the end of training at Anzac Park, and a St John ambulance took McFatter to hospital.

Over the past three years, McFatter has worked his way into a regular spot in United’s top Eastern League team, and impressed as a solid, reliable defender whose long-throw gives his team another weapon on attack.

The rightback in Saturday’s game, Ben Hansen, did good work going forward and was sound on defence.

The midfield of Damon Husband, Aaron Graham, Christophers and Sam Royston ensured plenty of scoring opportunities came United’s way. Strikers Aubrey Yates and Cranswick worked hard and were unlucky not to score.

Wainui Sharks coach Michael Smith said Boys’ High were a good side who tested goalkeeper Paddy Pierard a few times but found him in “solid” form.

On a day when Wainui shone across the park, rightback Caleb Baldacchino was man of the match — he got better with every game, Smith said.

Wainui scorers were Jaiden Ibbetson with a spin-and-shot inside the penalty area in the eighth minute, Steffan John with a good finish to nice build-up play, Dan Willock with a great striker’s goal to set off Jimmy Walker’s measured pass, Simon Blaker five minutes into the second half, and John with the last.

“I think United have the team to win the title,” Smith said. “We’ve just got to keep enjoying our football and try to keep the pressure on them.”