Wests look to cap off top year

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - By KRIS DANDO

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.

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