Melville eyeing cup glory

Super Melville charged into the quarterfinals of the Chatham Cup for the third time in seven years with a 3-1 come-from-behind away victory over three-times cup-winners Waitakere City.

It was a characterful showing from the Unicorns, who started and finished strongly, but also endured a flat patch for about 30 minutes in the first half, when they were rather rubbish, and wasted more chances than there are bumps in the Fred Taylor Park pitch.

The goals – all in the second half after being 1-0 down at the break – were spread around, with Josh Davies, Mark Jones and super sub Kieran Richards coming to the party.

Waitakere keeper George Lawton was regularly under pressure.

Melville co-coach Michael Mayne was delighted.

“When you make the quarterfinals – that’s when you start thinking anything is possible,” he said.

“As coaches we have a great deal of belief in this team and I think that is rubbing off on the players. They are starting to believe as well. We have that ring of confidence.

“We’d fancy anyone at home in the quarters – though it would be nice not to draw Onehunga Sports for a change.” (Onehunga knocked Melville out of the cup in 2014, 2017 and 2018.)

Melville started confidently and had five good chances in the first 15 minutes, though all they had to show for it was a disallowed goal for offside.

Somewhat against the run of play Dylan Manickum put Waitakere ahead in the 20th minute.

Melville continued to have chances and Craig Pritchard – who had a very influential game without actually scoring – hit the post. But Melville hit the doldrums, and it led to strong words at half time.

Anyone eavesdropping on the team talk at the break may have heard skipper Aaron Scott uncharacteristically raise his voice, as he demanded more.

Top goalscorer Marc Evans was subsequently dragged at half time along with injured Liam Steffert, and replacements Mike Pritchard and Kieran Richards added pep to an attack-focused Melville team who then turned on the style.

After sustained pressure, in the 57th minute Mark Jones crossed beautifully for Josh Davies to nut home a textbook far post header.

The Pritchard brothers, Richards, and Logan Wisnewski continued to create and in the 70th minute Jones was the beneficiary, sidefoot-volleying home from about 9 metres.

It was an overdue goal from Jones, his first in 13 outings. Obviously he is a fan of big rig drivers, because it sounded like he shouted: “Get in you trucker,” as he shot.

Richards put the result beyond doubt when he raced through in the 86th minute, chopped inwards and rolled the ball home from the edge of the area for his second goal as substitute in this cup campaign. It was a fine effort from the 18-year-old.

For Melville, Craig Pritchard was the star, lighting fires all over the pitch, with an infectious display. Federico Marquez, Melville’s Señor Fixit, has performed in more positions than the Kama Sutra, and on this occasion slotted in on the left side of defence in place of the absent Luke Searle.

Flynn O’Brien was strong, Wiznewski had his moments, and Liam Hayes brilliantly continued his extended (for him) his run of not being booked, perhaps encouraged by a moustache which curtails some of his ‘lippiness’.

Logan Wiznewski was again solid for Melville.

The quarterfinal draw is expected Monday afternoon. Others through in the cup ahead of Sunday matches were Bay Olympic, Albany, Onehunga Sports, and Wellington Olympic.

On Saturday Melville are away to Eastern Suburbs, who were upset 1-0 by Albany in the Cup.

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