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Thistle miss influence of unavailable midfielders

FOOTBALL.

It turns out that replacing all three midfielders in a winning team is not conducive to continued success.

Gisborne Thistle coach Garrett Blair already suspected as much, but couldn't do anything about the circumstances.

Skipper Nick Land had a landmark family event, Jarom Brouwer had to work and Cullen Spawforth was serving a suspension. They were the midfielders in Thistle's upset 5-2 victory over Palmerston North Marist at Childers Road Reserve the previous week.

In Palmerston North on Saturday, Thistle lost 2-0 to Massey University, a team who beat the Jags 3-2 in Gisborne and who now move two points ahead of them into third place with 26 points in football's Central Federation League.

Waikanae Beach TOP10 Gisborne Thistle are fourth, one point ahead of Whanganui Athletic, who lost 2-1 away to last-placed New Plymouth Rangers on Saturday.

Palmerston North Marist bounced back with a 3-2 home win against league leaders Havelock North Wanderers. Both have 31 points but Wanderers are ahead on goal difference with a game in hand.

Thistle went 1-0 down after 10 minutes on Saturday, through a deflected shot.

Ten minutes later, a Massey player found space at the far post to make it 2-0.

“We regrouped and created a few chances,” Blair said.

“At halftime we talked about working off the ball to create options. The long ball in to Jimmy Somerton was being read too easily so we told the boys we had other options.

“In the second half we played to feet a lot more and created more chances. But either the final ball was lacking or we coluldn't get off a clean shot.

‘We definitely missed our midfield. I think if we'd had any one of them in the side, it would have been a different game.”

Blair said Saturday's midfield of Ander Batarrita in the first half and Gonzalo Brunelli in the second, Ash McMillan and Alan Zarate did “really well” but needed at least one of the missing trio to anchor the middle of the park.

Outstanding for Thistle were Oli Davies, back on the left wing after a game at leftback, Brunelli at centreback and in midfield, and goalkeeper Mitchell Stewart-Hill. Rightback Alex Davies, younger brother of Oli, and right-winger Felipe Torres had their starting debuts and put in solid performances.