Three important points for Melville
Melville stayed in contention for promoton with an important but patchy 1-0 away win over Ellerslie.
Melville are in third place, two points behind Western Springs (who won on Saturday and with a midweek catch-up) with Manukau City a further five points ahead of Springs, but having played an extra game.
The margin of victory was finer than may have been expected, given Ellersie’s lowly position on the table, but it was a tricky fixture on an artificial pitch against dogged opposition.
Co-coach Sam Wilkinson later aptly described it as “a scruffy win” he was happy to take, given the occasions this season when his team has played very well and ended with a draw or a loss.
The Unicorns completely bossed the game for the first 75 minutes, restricting Ellerslie to one attack – a breakaway which they really should have finished but Max Tommy made a terriffic double save.
Flashpoint in the match came in the 40th minute. Melville attacked down the right and Steven Holloway slipped a clever ball inside for Marc Evans to net his 34th goal of the season at the far post.
Earlier Holloway, Patrick Hinchcliffe and Aaron Scott had all bombed good chances high, seemingly struggling with timing on the rubber surface.
The game dramatically changed in the last 15-20 minutes. With victory seeming inevitable, and all the subs on, Melville stopped playing almost completely and were very nearly punished as Ellerslie had a late surge.
For a few grim minutes it even looked like it was going to be “North Shore Mark II” as Ellerslie took command in stoppage time and Melville did increasingly dumb things, but fortunately, as Melville had in the first half, Ellerslie regularly shot high.
Midfielder Scott and fullback Lachie McIsaac were the pick of the Melville crop, while Wilkinson gave official player of the day to goalkeeper Max Tommy for his first half save, which really was an excellent effort.
Meanwhile two goals from Jono Viviani carried Melville Reserves to a significant 2-1 away win over league leaders Ellerslie 2-1.
The Ressies to move to within three points of Ellerslie at the top of the table with a game in hand – with Melville having a better goal difference of plus 1.
At the aftermatch function Reserves spokesman Thomas “Likeable” Mouncher continued a family tradition of eloquence by describing the win as arguably the defining moment of his team’s season.
It was a tribute to the coaching work invested and team spirit generated by the Reserves this winter, that they could travel to the home ground of such an experienced and successful team and take all three points, Mouncher said.
Mouncher’s unexpected speech drew the biggest applause of the day, prompting him to name himself as man of the match.
Melville are away to Tauranga on SUNDAY.
Melville’s end-of-season run:
August 6 v Tauranga, Links Ave, 3pm. (SUN)
August 12 v Hibiscus Coast, Gower Park 2.45pm
August 19 v Oratia, Gower Park, 2.45pm
August 26 v Manukau City, Walter Massey Park 3pm
Sept 02 v Metro, Gower Park, 2.45pm