The kids are alright
A reshuffled and youth-dominated Melville United offered a glimpse into the club’s future with a 3-2 victory over Fencibles United at William Green Domain.
The win meant Melville have now completed a perfect northern league season in terms of away matches – an astonishing return in any circumstances.
But even more remarkable was that Melville’s coaches called upon their U19s to finish the job at senior level, as an experiment to see who might be capable of stepping up next season.
This was Melville’s 11th consecutive away win in the league, setting a new club benchmark, while the win left them 12 points clear at the top of the table with one match to play – at home to Mt Albert Ponsonby on Saturday.
Emboldened by the runaway success in blooding young Legga Legz a week earlier, Melville coaches placed all their star players on gardening leave for the day and started the game with a line-up comprised predominantly of U19 players, captain by team veteran, 20-year-old Flynn O’Brien.
The starting line-up was: Jamie Searle, Thomas Mouncher, Flynn O’Brien, Dilan Nanayakkara, Levi Clark, Joel McMullan, Jordan Lamb, Leslie Kivolyn, Stafford Dowling, Logan Wisneski and Harry Christensen-Rose.
In the second half subs Josh Galletly and Nicholas Walters made their first team debuts. In the case of midfielder Galletly, by doing so the 15-year-old (who had league dispensation to play) became the youngest player to take the field for Melville in the northern league, dethroning Liam Hayes.
Rested were Max Tommy, Aaron Scott, Wade Molony, Jama Boss, Mark Jones and Josh Davies, while Luke Searle and Liam Steffert were injured, and Liam Hayes was suspended. Federico Marquez played for the reserves, along with Tommy.
It looked a risky decision on an unfamiliar artificial surface, playing into a strong southerly, particularly when Melville fell behind in just the second minute after two Melville players forgot you have to tackle at this level.
But Melville were soon back in the contest when Joel McMullan – playing in the Liam Hayes role – scored his first northern league goal, by nicely side-foot volleying home from a corner.
Then before half time Melville went ahead when, from a cross played in from the left, a Fencibles player turned the ball into his own net, lunging to get to the ball ahead of Levi Clark, who in the space of a few short weeks has gone from the “work experience” roster to chief playmaker for Melville.
Fencibles levelled after placing Melville’s defence under sustained pressure, but The Sparkles struck back with a strong finish. Mouncher drew a fine save, then in the 87th minute Wisnewski expertly nutted home a cross from the right for a delightful winner.
Wisnewski, 17, was the senior man in midfield, and his late goal was deserved reward for bossing the game with such authority.
Coach Sam Wilkinson also drew attention to his decision to get third sub Kyle Wisnewski onto the pitch in grabbing the win.
“I though we might just squeeze that tiny bit more out of Logan if we got his brother on,” Wilkinson said.
Fencibles were the only team Melville had not beaten in the league this season before kick-off, having drawn 2-2 with them at Gower Park.
Wilkinson and Mayne would not be drawn on how they might approach team selection for the final game of the season at Gower Park on Saturday.