Good Evans – Marc scores opening day hat trick
By Philip Pirrup (guest match reporter)
Melville have made their best start to a northern league season in living memory after despatching Waitemata 5-0 at Gower Park No 2, with Marc “Hitman” Evans potting a hat trick.
The result was in stark contrast to the opening 0-4 and 2-6 losses of the previous two seasons, and even the 1-1 draw that began the premier title-winning season in 2009, and belied Melville’s tradition of being woefully slow starters.
However it took plenty of time for the goals to come on tap.
See all the goals here:
The match was still scoreless 10 minutes into the second half, with frustration growing among the healthy home support, if not the coaching bench, at Melville’s inability to quantify their dominance in terms of goals.
Liam Hayes finally broke the drought by surging forward from midfield to strike a firm shot from distance which took a deflection and wrong-footed the keeper. It was Hayes’ first start for Melville at northern league level, with his only other appearance being as sub in the final match of 2014, after which he tried his luck at Wanderers Sports Club.
So you can imagine his annoyance when referee Andrew Lambeth decided to record it as an own goal.
Club captain Phil Wheatley said Hayes should be consulting either Melville’s finest lawyer – or Kieran Lomas.
“Football convention dictates that if the original strike is on target (i.e. within the frame of the goal) and it hits a player of the defending team but still goes in, then the goal is credited to the striker of the ball,” Wheatley said. “Liam’s strike was on target. The case for an own goal generally only arises if the original strike’s trajectory is talking the ball away from goal but a defender deflects it into his own goal.
“The logic is that in the former case, the ball had a chance to go in regardless of the deflection. In the latter case, without the defending player’s intervention, the shot would have harmlessly gone off target.
“Having said that, the laws of the game also say the referee is the sole judge of fact on the football pitch. Definitely one for Kieran Lomas.”
Once Melville got ahead, it was happy hour, with Evans deriving more enjoyment than he could muster from two dozen vodka cruisers. For his first, he floated down the left flank for one of his trademark slide-rule finishes, expertly rolled the ball into the corner of the net for his second, and then showed supreme sprinting ability when the referee awarded a penalty.
Evans was off like a shot, desperate to grab the ball ahead of any number of his team mates, anxious that he not be displaced as Melville’s penalty taker in a team where there is a real line-up who would happily do the job.
Robbie Greenhalgh and Steven Holloway have long penalty-taking histories, not to mention the unavailable Bailey Webster, while you fancy man of the match George Curry, Eric “Jones” and youngsters Hayes and Lachie McIsaac would have no trouble from the spot either.
So you can imagine the widespread anguish when Evans had his penalty kick saved by excellent Waitemata keeper Cameron Brown. However it was the assistant referee to the rescue, ruling Brown had moved forward off his line, and a re-take was ordered.
The vultures were hovering but Evans hugged the ball like it was a long lost baby. He drove the second penalty fiercely – we’re not saying which side in case he has to do this again in coming weeks – but it did raise post-match debate about whether the need to re-take a penalty should count as a “penalty miss”.
Evans takes great pride in only ever having missed a penalty while guesting for the England team in the Ethnic Football Tournament – and that was something he felt nationalistically obliged to do as a means of fitting in and illustrating his pseudo Englishness.
But given the fact that had Evans scored with his original penalty would have meant no need for a re-take, the jury is now out on how his record should read.
However that was a minor quibble. Overall this was a satisfying day, made more-so by a fine final goal from speedy substitute Stafford Dowling, who hit one first time from outside the area. That was not easy to do on a tricky and slippery No 2 pitch.
The teen has returned from a debut national league season where he scored two goals, and is now looking to blossom at northern league level, where he reported the play was “not quite as intense”.
Once Melville stopped shovelling their passes so awkwardly in the first half they settled in and played some good football. Curry was superb in bossing the midfield, and he may well be Melville’s most dominant central midfielder since – well, since they started noticing such things.
“It was a slick Melville performance,” said Waitemata coach Bob Sova – who incidentally was also their coach 30 years back, before returning this year.
Melville co-coach Michael Mayne put the win down to good solid preparation, and remained confident of a Melville win even through that messy first half, given the chances that were being created.
The match started 17 minutes late after one of the assistant referees appointed to the fixture never fronted, according to refereeing assessor Mark Hester. It initially started with just one assistant – until the referee from the curtainraiser had a short break and joined proceedings.
The Reserves made a real job of winning 4-2.
Melville are away to Franklin United on Saturday, 3pm at Bledisloe Park in Pukekohe.