United now top of the table
GISBORNE United moved to the top of football’s Pacific Premiership with a 5-0 win against Napier Marist Seconds at Harry Barker Reserve on Saturday.
They overtook previous leaders Maycenvale, who were beaten 1-0 by Napier City Rovers Seconds at Park Island, Napier, on the same day.
A hat-trick by Josh Adams was the scoring highlight of Heavy Equipment Services Gisborne United’s victory.
The feat was all the more noteworthy for the fact that two of the goals came from Adams’s right foot.
Nearly all of the United striker’s busload of goals in the premiership have been struck with his accurate and powerful left foot.
On Saturday, he showed that “clinical” was the adjective to describe the use of his right.
Adams’s hat-trick took him two goals clear — with 11 — in the race for the golden boot award for top scorer in the premiership.
It almost didn’t seem fair that United should have such a comfortable margin against a spirited Marist side who played plenty of good football.
They were in with a chance of a result until the 61st minute, when Adams put United 3-0 up. Marist never gave up, but United would have had to implode to come away with less than three points from there.
The win puts United one point ahead of Maycenvale, three points ahead of Napier City Rovers Seconds and four ahead of Port Hill, with the rest of the competition well back. United have a game in hand on the other three teams in the top four.
Marist remain in the bottom three of the eight-team league. Their lowly placing confirms that sides from the top to the bottom of this competition can compete meaningfully with any other team in it.
Among the key differences between the teams on Saturday was that United’s defence made hardly any mistakes and rode their luck, whereas Marist made just a few mistakes but were punished.
Josh Adams opened the scoring in the 15th minute. Cutting in from the left, he drove a cross-cum-shot into the goalmouth. It took a deflection and flew in at the far post (a check with referee Chris Niven confirmed that he had recorded it as Adams’s goal).
The only yellow card of the game was shown in the 33rd minute, to Marist’s industrious Irish midfielder Jake Butler (from Kilkenny), after he stretched a trifle too far to make a tackle.
Left-winger James Bristow made it 2-0 in the 42nd minute. Right-winger Sam Royston hit a full-blooded cross beyond Marist goalkeeper Reuben Hilton and Bristow met it outside the far post to power in an unstoppable header.
United almost went further ahead on the stroke of halftime, when midfielder Dane Thompson headed a Malcolm Marfell left-wing corner against the post.
United player-coach Kieran Venema had toyed with the idea of playing Thompson as a target man up front. He decided to keep him in midfield and Josh Adams as the central striker, and move Bristow out to the left wing in place of the injured Josh Harris.
The pay-off for that decision came in a passage of play that decided the contest.
Marist had defused a United attack and were looking to break out when Thompson intercepted the pass. Almost instantly he put Josh Adams in the clear with a through-ball that was so inviting Adams spurned the option to chop back on to his left foot. Instead, he drove the ball low and true into the far corner of the goal . . . with his right foot.
Three minuts later, Thompson put Adams through in almost the same place but this time no goal came of it.
In the 73rd minute, the score ticked over to 4-0. Corey Adams dispossessed centreback Yeshnil Naiker and finished with the minimum of fuss.
Naiker was the only first-teamer helping out the reserves (and his younger brother Parnil) on a free weekend for the Federation League team. The elder Naiker was one of the stars of a determined defensive effort and showed a handy turn of pace.
Marist player-coach Jonty Underhill had no problem with there being only one first-teamer in the reinforcements, even though four of his regulars had been unavailable for the trip.
He preferred to give members of his wider squad the opportunities when regular starters were absent. And he accepted that the number of players going from the reserve team to help out the firsts was generally greater than the number dropping a division to help out the reserves.
Josh Adams completed the scoring — and his hat-trick — in the 79th minute. When the ball arrived, he flicked it behind the player marking him, then whipped round the other side of the defender to collect the ball and dispatch it, right-footed, into the net.
United player-coach Venema said that although his side could have played with more urgency in the first half, overall it was probably their best home performance so far this season.
His man of the match, for the second week running, was rightback Adam Simpson for his ball-winning ability and the threat he posed going forward.
Venema also thought Bristow did well on the left flank in place of Harris.
“They are completely different types of player, but James was effective basically playing two-touch football,” Venema said.
He was especially proud of the discipline in the team.
“We’ve gone six games with only one yellow card. No dissent . . . it’s something we’ve been working on, and the boys are on board with it.”
Marist player-coach Underhill said both teams wanted to play football but his side made some mistakes and United were clinical in punishing them.
For United, goalkeeper Seth Piper had a tidy, if unspectacular, game. Most of the threats were dealt with by fullbacks Simpson and Marfell and centrebacks Kieran Higham and Mal Scammell, who all had solid outings. Higham and Scammell have developed a good understanding and are hard to get past.
Venema has slotted back into the holding midfield role without missing a beat, and Thompson shows no sign of being weighed down by the captaincy. If anything, the consistency of his play has gone up a notch.
Corey Adams clearly enjoys being back in action after a year out with injury, and his play on Saturday reflected that.
Younger brother Josh still troubles defences with his pace and shooting power, but has had to adjust to the challenge of defences set up to counteract his strengths. He’s held the right foot in reserve till now.
Wide on the right, Royston continues to impress with his pace and willing effort. It was fitting that he and Bristow combined for a stunning goal that gave United a boost just before the break.
Players to stand out for Marist were ’keeper Hilton, centrebacks Naiker and Underhill, rightback Hamish McLellan, and midfielders Butler, Sebastian Bayliss and Mitchell Dick.
Referee Niven controlled the game well.