Western Suburbs 5 Wairarapa United 1
Elijah Just 32 Paul Ifill 42
Owen Parker-Price 68 (pen)
Callum McCowatt 73, 86, 90+2
Wests Formation (4-3-3) NCR Formation (4-2-3-1)
Alex Clayton, Michael Faber, Kyle Adams, Dalton Wilkins
Dominic Wooldridge, Harry Edge, Owen Parker-Price
Callum McCowatt, Elijah Just, Xavier Green
Ihaia Delaney for Elijah Just (75 mins) – Straight swap
Wests produced another outstanding team performance to comprehensively beat title-rivals Wairarapa United on an overcast, showery day at Endeavour. There was a healthy crowd in attendance, some no doubt attracted to the top-of-the-table billing of the game, but many others simply wanting to see for themselves the increasing quality and effectiveness of this young Wests side.
Wairarapa remain the only team to beat Wests this season, and, in search of a “double”, they fielded a very strong side, spearheaded by the evergreen, Paul Ifill. Their 4-2-3-1 starting formation appeared quite defensive, but Wairarapa’s attacking midfielders were quick to support the lone striker, effectively making a 4-2-4 structure when they were on attack.
Wests retained the same starting 11 that had been so impressive against Napier City Rovers the previous weekend, and adopted their usual 4-3-3 which transforms to 2-1-4-3 when they are on attack.
To use a slightly adjusted footballing cliché, this was definitely a game of three thirds. Wests came out of the blocks fast and dominated the first third, but with little to show for their endeavours. This was followed by a relatively even middle period, but then, as is often the case, Wests completely dominated the final 30 minutes as Wairarapa tired from the incessant pressure that had been applied on them.
One of the key features of the opening exchanges was the solidity of the Wests defensive backbone of Andrew Withers, Kyle Adams, Michael Faber and Harry Edge. Not only did they snuff out any rare Wairarapa attacks, but their excellent decision-making and ball distribution created the foundation for the overall team performance. The other highlight early-on was the speed and high press of the Wests front three, which led to a number of mistakes by Wairarapa defenders. Xavier Green was particular effective, twice winning the ball in dangerous positions and combining well with Elijah Just who was denied first by a linesman’s flag and then by an excellent last-ditch tackle from Daniel Allen.
Despite a mistake-riddled first 30 minutes, Wairarapa were somehow still level, but this changed on 32 minutes when Elijah Just scored a serious goal-of-the-season contender. Dalton Wilkins made a fine run down the left and struck a good cross towards the “D” of the box. Elijah Just was surrounded by Wairarapa tall timber, but he managed to cushion the ball on his chest, execute a volleyed flick over a defender, and then repeated the trick to beat the out-rushing keeper.
The opening goal forced Wairarapa to show a bit more adventure, and they definitely started to even-up possession as the game approached half-time. Other than a couple of hopeful long-range efforts though, Wairarapa did not look like unlocking the Wests’ defence, but out-of-the-blue they conjured up an equaliser as a neat diagonal was seized upon by Paul Ifill who cut inside and expertly slotted home.
There were chances at both ends in the early stages of the second half. In Wairarapa’s first attack of the half, Wests were indebted to Dalton Wilkins crucial clearance, and from the resultant corner, Brian Kaltack came close to giving the visitors the lead. At the other end, Dominic Wooldridge made an excellent block on an attempted clearance, but saw his intervention unfortunately ricochet back off the post. Dalton Wilkins then tried his luck, forcing a flying save from Coey Turipa, after a flowing move involving Alex Clayton, Owen Parker-Price and Xavier Green.
As the hour mark ticked by, Wests managed to ratchet up another gear, and this, combined with increasing tiredness in the Wairarapa legs, resulted in one-way traffic for the final 30 minutes.
Elijah Just was first to threaten, heading just over after a fine one-two between Dominic Wooldridge and Callum McCowatt. Soon afterwards however, Elijah Just was instrumental in Wests re-taking the lead, as he pounced on a long ball before being dragged down for a penalty. Owen Parker-Price was calmness personified sending the keeper the wrong way from the spot.
The last 20 minutes turned into the Callum McCowatt show as he bagged a hat-trick to add to his brace against Napier. While the goals were all great finishes, it was the quality of teamwork and the precision of the passes that had the whole crowd applauding, including some very impressed Wairarapa followers.
The pick of Callum McCowatt’s goals was his first as he linked well with Owen Parker-Price and curled a beautiful 25-yarder into the top corner. He then showed good composure to slam home a couple more, each time assisted by Owen Parker-Price.
A well-deserved 5-1 victory in the end to Wests, who again displayed admirable patience before clinically finishing off their opponents in the latter stages of the game. Wairarapa were very gracious in defeat, admitting they were certainly second-best to an exciting young side that could go a long way under Declan Edge’s continued guidance.
Player of the Day:
3 points – Callum McCowatt – Outstanding hat-trick and all-round teamwork
2 points – Michael Faber – Rock at the back and fine distribution out of defence
1 point – Elijah Just – Bergkamp-esque skills for goal and won crucial penalty