Another fine away win
Melville cruised to an impressive 4-1 away win over Eastern Suburbs to extend their unbeaten away run in the northern premier league and Chatham Cup to seven matches.
“It’s almost as if ‘away’ is our home away from home,” said Melville top goalscorer and pop philosopher Marc Evans, who was back in favour with team management after a week in the outhouse.
The win avenged a cruel last-gasp 1-0 home loss to Suburbs on Anzac Day and underlined the extent to which Melville have improved in the past two months.
Melville coaches copped some curious social media criticism after that first contest from Suburbs support quarters for “parking the bus” when trying to juggle an understrength squad against a team which was then top of the table, rather than let young players learn by expressing themselves.
So those same profound critics of youth policy will no doubt revel in the fact that Melville’s goalscorers against Suburbs this time included two 18-year-olds – Kieran Richards and Joel McMullan – netting their first northern premier league goals.
Melville are still seventh on the table, but now just three points behind Suburbs and Wanderers Sports Club.
Mike Pritchard opened the scoring in the 25th minute with a slick finish from just outside the area, banging it home through a forest of legs, after his brother Craig had done the tricky build up work with his back to goal in the area and then laying it off.
Richards then gave Melville a margin of comfort when he bundled the ball home from close range in the 56th minute, having just been subbed on for Josh Davies.
Eight minutes later Hitman Evans swivelled and volleyed home from about 10 metres. It took his career goal tally with Melville to sit level with Steven Holloway on 82, two behind Mark Cossey in the club’s post-amalgamation (1996) era. Though as club statistician Ron Anorak notes, if we were to count Cossey’s pre-amalgamation national league and cup goals with [trigger-alert warning here for a couple of parochial old duffers – Website Ed] parent club Waikato United, Evans would need another 58 goals to draw level.
Suburbs hit back with a fine strike from Joel Clissord to make it 3-1, and Evans then blotted his record when he once again failed to score from the penalty spot, drawing a save from keeper Justin Biega.
With weekly match footage now being shared around coaching staff in the northern premier league, everyone is highly familiar with Evans’ penalty routine, and keepers know which way to dive.
It was tempting to idly suggest somebody in the squad should inform Evans of this – but he was already onto it.
Evans explained he was working on a cunning old Welsh double-bluff mentality.
“I thought that everyone would know that I knew they knew which way I usually go, so they would expect me to go the other way and I would surprise them by going the same way,” he said.
“But, yes, at the moment I am scoring more goals from free kicks than penalties.”
Highlight of the day came in the 87th minute, when sub McMullan broke clear down the right, cut into the area, and exquisitely drilled a low shot in off the far post.
It was great reward for a teen who is in the squad more for his emerging defensive skills, but continues to show composure and maturity in everything he does. McMullan is the new Flynn O’Brien.
“That goal was for Mum – it was her birthday today,” McMullan said afterwards.
“I had thought about laying off to Marc as I cut in, but them remembered how he’d just missed that penalty, and figured maybe I should have a crack.”
Craig Pritchard was best for Melville once again, combining quick feet and good vision with a high midfield work rate.
On Saturday Melville are away to second-placed Western Springs, where there is a 5pm kick-off.
# Melville Reserves twice came from behind to win 3-2. Leslie “Legga Legz” Kivolyn scored an 89th minute winner, while Gabriel Jhang scored in the 57th minute (to make it 1-1) and again in the 72nd minute.