Wests look to cap off top year
Talk about contrasting seasons.
The Porirua basin’s two Central League football teams, Tawa and Western Suburbs finished at opposite ends of the table this year.
Wests have one game left to play – against Napier City Rovers this weekend – but can finish no worse than second. After a ropey start to the season, Wests roared through the second half, piling in the goals, not conceding many, and generally running roughshod over the rest of the division.
The 7-1 demolition of eventual league winners Miramar Rangers on Rangers’ home turf on August 2 was the standout result, Wests co-coach Lloyd O’Keefe said.
‘‘To play like we did against a quality opposition like that was a true reflection of what we were capable of,’’ he said.
‘‘ We should have hit double figures that day – we just didn’t let Rangers play at all and they couldn’t cope. We’ve closed the gap on them and hopefully we can do it even further next season.’’
Fielding an ineligible player and being docked three points against Lower Hutt on the opening day was an inauspicious start to the campaign.
Losses to Olympic, Wairarapa and a draw with Palmerston North put them on the backfoot.
O’Keefe said the young players integrated into Wests from Ole nevertheless stood up as the season wore on.
He had plenty of praise for cocoach Declan Edge, who brought skills and mental toughness to Wests.
‘‘ There was certainly an element of not knowing what to expect when the season started, with these young players and working with someone like Declan. But his possession-style coaching, that favours scoring goals, made us the best team in the region to watch.
‘‘He’s an incredible, passionate coach and in a different class – I’ve learnt so much this season.’’
With a number of the Wests’ starting side earmarked for scholarships in the USA later this year, or duties with New Zealand age group sides, the challenge will be to bring new players on for the 2015 season, O’Keefe said.
He’s confident they could go one better and win the league next year, and is hopeful of a good Chatham Cup run after early exits the past few years.
Noah Billingsley, who scored 10 goals, could be hard to retain, O’Keefe admitted, but he is confident a number of players will be back.
The Wests second team have been promoted to Capital 1 after comfortably winning Capital 2, so that is a shot in the arm for the club’s development, O’Keefe said.
Up the road at Redwood Park, Tawa couldn’t have had it much tougher.
Despite two wins from their first five games, they were soon dragged into a relegation dogfight with newly promoted Upper Hutt City. The second round was particularly uphill and it came down to the last day.
Although Tawa had an excellent 0-0 draw against Miramar, there was a nervous wait until confirmation came through that Upper Hutt had lost, ensuring Tawa’s survival.
‘‘Although the draw with Miramar was a great way to finish – it was the first time they hadn’t scored this season – you can’t gloss over the fact we didn’t win enough games.’’
On the positive side of the ledger was the performances of young players like Richard Bott, Wood said.
At least six of the first team were under-21, he said, and that bodes well for the future.
Tawa had a high injury toll and shipped too many goals, Wood said. The key for next season would be to try and attract some quality players into the club, which would be difficult without the resources some of their Central League counterparts had.
While his players always played with commitment, some of the results this year dented any confidence within the squad.
‘‘A bit of panic set in and we couldn’t right the ship. We lost our way but were pretty happy to stay up because it’s important to the club to be playing at this level.’’
The re- surfacing of Redwood Park was being done now which was a boost for Tawa, as many of their home matches were at Endeavour Park or on turf as the winter weather hit hard, Wood said.
Tawa’s second team were also promoted to Capital 1, which narrows the gap between the Central League and the next tier of players coming through.
Season standout: Tawa’s Richard Bott, in red, in action against Miramar Rangers.
Magical win: Western Suburb’s Alex Palezevic, in white, tussles for the ball during their jaw-dropping 7-1 win over eventual league champions Miramar Rangers.