De­pleted City gal­lant in derby de­feat

Bat­tered side rely on in­jured play­ers as they push Ath­letic

Whanganui Chronicle - - Sport - By Zaryd Wil­son

IT SEEMS pas­sion trumps ad­ver­sity in derby foot­ball. De­spite a frus­trat­ing buildup for both Ver­sa­tile Wan­ganui City and GJ Gard­ner Wan­ganui Ath­letic, the two sides put on a riv­et­ing Lotto Fed­er­a­tion League show­down at Wem­b­ley Park on Satur­day.

Ath­letic, who hadn’t played for 21 days thanks to a Cup round and bad weather, held off a late chal­lenge for a 3-2 win over a City side back­ing up from Mon­day’s ex­tra-time Fed­er­a­tion Cup loss which left them phys­i­cally and men­tally bat­tered.

City coach Kelvin Francis worked a mir­a­cle to field a squad, re­ly­ing on in­jured play­ers, play­ers out of po­si­tion and one who hadn’t played all year.

“Re­ally, when you look at the play­ers we brought in, it’s a re­ally stel­lar job and that group of guys can be re­ally proud of that,” Francis said. “Con­sid­er­ing we are so in­jury de­pleted and guys patched them­selves up and took painkillers to play.”

Adrian Ngaau, who was sit­ting out the sea­son to re­cover from knee surgery, even of­fered his ser­vices.

“He was in the club this morn­ing when I was scratch­ing my head about what we were go­ing to do and he said ‘I’ll play if you need me’,” said Francis.

Even Ath­letic coach Ja­son King was im­pressed.

“I said to [Francis] ‘if that’s what you call a de­pleted squad, mate, you’ve done well’.

“But that just shows what a derby is all about. They had guys step­ping in, guys who were car­ry­ing in­juries, but it meant some­thing, and that came through.”

It was a be­low-par per­for­mance from Ath­letic from which King was happy to bank three points to restart their cam­paign.

“I think for us you could tell we hadn’t had a game for a cou­ple of weeks,” he said.

“That’s why I was re­ally gut­ted about that rained-off week, it re­ally broke our mo­men­tum.”

His side be­gan well and went up in the 13th minute through Quinn Mail­man, with his pow­er­ful shot slic­ing through a traf­fic jam of bod­ies after the ball spewed out from a set piece.

Josh Smith dou­bled the lead seven min­utes later, glid­ing along the bye­line to score from a sharp an­gle, the goal help­ing Ath­letic shift up a gear.

A sig­na­ture City goal nar­rowed the gap with An­thony Bell run­ning on to as­sist through the mid­dle of the park and us­ing his pace and ac­cu­racy to beat Ath­letic keeper Matthew Calvert.

Ath­letic re­claimed the buf­fer just four min­utes later when Scott Bur­ney scored from close range when City again failed to clear their lines.

City man­aged to grind away in the sec­ond half and were re­warded when su­per-sub Jake Lock­ett came on in the 23rd minute to score, de­spite the at­ten­tion of a scram­bling

Calvert and de­fender Jake Sym­cox.

Ath­letic had a poor sec­ond half but man­aged to cling on for a win, which was needed to keep them in touch with the league lead­ers.

“We lacked a bit of fight which we’ve got to get back be­fore we play Rangers next week oth­er­wise it’s go­ing to be a re­peat of the start of the sea­son,” King said.

Ath­letic beat City 5-2 in the open­ing round but then lost 1-0 away to Rangers the fol­low­ing week.

King will also need to ad­dress how City man­aged to get Ath­letic to move away from their usu­ally dis­ci­plined struc­ture.

“That’s good in a way, it’s good for us be­cause it chal­lenged us in dif­fer­ent ways,” he said.

“It gives me some­thing to think about to make sure that we can counter those sort of things be­cause while we don’t have to play them again, un­til maybe Char­ity Cup, we’ve got other teams that will try and break us down so tac­ti­cally we can look at things to see how we can change things to over­come these sit­u­a­tions.

“Over­all I’m re­ally happy. We just need to make sure we lift that in­ten­sity.”

Ath­letic can’t af­ford to drop too many more points in a ti­tle race with North End and Palmer­ston North Marist.

“Then we’re start­ing to rely on oth­ers and I like to be in con­trol of my own des­tiny,” King said.

“To­day it’s still one more on the goal dif­fer­ence which I think is go­ing to be im­por­tant at the end of the sea­son and it’s an­other three points. In the grand scheme of things, it’s still mov­ing for­ward for us.”

What will help is mid-ta­ble Massey’s 3-2 win over North End on Satur­day.

Mean­while, Francis was just proud City were able to be com­pet­i­tive ahead of a trip to North End next week.

“That bodes re­ally well for us, I sup­pose, that we can field a side with four guys out and the other guys back-up,” he said.

“I’m pretty proud of them, to be fair. We could’ve hung our heads after hav­ing a few early goals but we stuck in there.

“It would’ve been nice to have got a point. I think we prob­a­bly de­served a point, the way we played, but that’s how foot­ball goes.

“In the first half we prob­a­bly needed to get to that sec­ond ball and we didn’t open up enough. We did that bet­ter in the sec­ond half.”

Francis said it was an im­prove­ment on round 1 for them.

“We’re re­ally proud of their ef­fort to­day and Ath­letic will know that they’ve had a game

. . . I feel that they maybe feel a lit­tle thank­ful that we didn’t man­age to fin­ish an­other chance or two.”

In other Fed­er­a­tion League matches, Marist beat Hokowhitu 2-1 and New Ply­mouth Rangers beat Red Sox Manawatu 3-2.

The Hori­zons Pre­mier­ship saw the GJ Gard­ner Homes Wan­ganui Ath­letic Re­serves ham­mered 5-1 away by the Hokowhitu FC Re­serves.

Ath­letic goalscorer Quinn Mail­man watches the pass of City’s Alex Jud­dNut­tall.

Wan­ganui City’s Alex Judd-Nut­tall leaps above Wan­ganui Ath­letic’s Ross Kin­ner­ley (6) and Scott Bur­ney dur­ing Satur­day’s derby at Wem­b­ley Park. PHO­TOS / BE­VAN CON­LEY

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