Derby day delight

Mighty Melville demolished Wanderers Sports Club 5-0 in a catch-up midweek northern premier league derby, notching the biggest win on record between the clubs in the modern era.

In the process they reclaimed the Soccer Shop Challenge Cup (and a cheque for $250) to put it alongside the Joma Cup – with the Chatham Cup still in their sights.

It was Wanderers biggest loss of the season and a result that will make Christchurch United feel better about their 4-0 defeat in the Chatham Cup at the weekend.

More importantly, it was Melville’s first derby win over Wanderers since Jason Chewins potted the winner at home in 2011.

The win lifted Melville to seventh in the table, ahead of Eastern Suburbs and three points behind fifth-placed Wanderers.

And on this showing few would now bet against Melville finishing higher than Wanderers as the season moves into its final weeks.

Wanderers were missing a couple of players, while Melville were at such strength that they started record goalscorer Marc Evans on the bench, along with import Mike Pritchard and Liam Steffert, instead giving more game time to the subs from Saturday.

Federico Marquez started for Melville, playing further forward than he has for most of the season and he secured an early goal. After two Melville shots had been blocked he swept the ball into the net.

Soon afterwards Craig Pritchard made it 2-0, side-footing home at the end of a delightful Melville move down the right which he had started himself.

Wanderers were still in the contest at this stage and looking dangerous on attack themselves.

But Melville co-coach Michael Mayne gave his team “a touch up” at half time and they stepped up a gear.

Evans, who was aggrieved not to be in the starting line-up after his feats of recent weeks, came on – as did Mike Pritchard and Steffert – and was in dazzling form.

Evans chimed in with a most entertaining goal to make it 3-0 when he charged straight up the middle, dribbling from his own half with a solo effort. He sat Wanderers keeper Matt Oliver on his chuff, and had time to recite the Gettysburg Address before tapping into an empty net.

Evans is now on 14 league goals – within three of golden boot leader Tommy Semmy, who started for Wanderers but was unable to add to his tally.

The goals were great but one of the most memorable incidents of the day came from an astonishing miss. Evans broke through again but instead of shooting himself squared for Craig Pritchard to tap into an empty net. Except Pritchard – already in celebration mode- mystifyingly kicked the ball on the wrong side of the post when completely free in front of goal. That apart, Pritchard had another influential game, and was certain the miss would be overlooked in any match report, given it was such a successful day.

Steffert then imposed his class on the game with two late goals, squeezing the first one home at the near post and then adding a second after sustained Melville pressure.

Liam Steffert’s goals were wildly popular with some sections of the crowd.

Wanderers coach Kale Herbert said Melville were “decent” and his team was “a million miles away”.

Perhaps surprisingly Herbert declared his team now had nothing to play for this season. So watch for attendances at training, and matchday performances, to slide from here.

Melville co-coach Sam Wilkinson said he was mindful of a very full fixture list, with Melville at home to Waitakere City on Saturday, then due to play Onehunga Sports under lights at Papakura next Wednesday, 7pm.

“But a derby is a derby,” he said. “We were up for it.”

He described the first half as “scruffy” and the second half as excellent.

Wilkinson praised the performances of Aaron Scott and Liam Hayes but named Kieran Richards as his player of the day.

Richards was very mobile and stretched the Wanderers defence in just his sixth start of the season, and what was his final match before heading to Tennessee.

# Melville reserve keeper Jamie Searle has secured a professional contract with Aston Villa, after trialling brilliantly in recent weeks. To assist him in landing the contract, Melville agreed to forego any player development fee. Goalkeeping coach Neil Mouncher – of indeterminate age – will be on the bench for the remainder of Melville’s games league and cup games this season.

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