Great goal can’t prevent another loss
For the second successive home game Melville’s Kieran Richards scored a “worldy” in northern premier league football – only to see his team ultimately lose.
Melville frustratingly conceded goals in the 88th and 90th minute – to All Whites Monty Patterson and Clayton Lewis – to lose 3-1 to a strong Auckland United side and remain pointless in the league after three rounds.
But for most of the afternoon, to the casual viewer, the most likely looking All White at Gower Park was 19-year-old Richards.
He has returned from a successful freshman year at East Tennessee State University as a more powerful, confident player and he turned in another eye-catching performance with a sensational goal to draw Melville level seven minutes into the second half.
From just inside Auckland’s half, he looked up and saw keeper Mackenzie Waite slightly off his line and chipped home a pinpoint looping curling shot which dipped just under the bar to trigger wild celebrations.
It was a finer finish than even his searing solo run and goal against an equally strong Central United on the same pitch a fortnight earlier.
Best commentary on the goal came from Melville’s veteran sub Steve Kipchoge – no stranger himself to goals on Gower Park – who watched on admiringly, and argued there were three key components to such a compelling finish.
“First of all he has to have the vision and awareness to realise that it is on,” Kipchoge said.
“Then he needs to have the confidence to have a crack at such a difficult shot without making a fool of himself, and finally he needs the skill and ability to successfully execute it.”
Older more contrary Melville followers might argue that LJ Pijnenburg’s astonishing last-gasp volley from about the same distance into the same goal in 2006 was marginally finer, insofar as it was the winner in a 5-4 victory over Metro.
But otherwise this was as good as it gets at Gower, and reward for Richards, who showed quick feet all afternoon and has now scored three goals from three matches this season.
Melville fell behind in the 21st minute to a slick piece of work from Andrew Milne, who applied a reflex header to a slightly wide shot from team mate Jake Porter from inside the 6-yard-box.
Melville remained competitive and strung together some nice passing moves, though also required Max Tommy to make a breath-taking save to stop Auckland goign ahead again after Richards has scored.
Richards then hit the bar with another excellent shot from distance, before Auckland put the game to bed with the late goals.
We’re starting to see a bit of a pattern with Melville’s concession of goals in the final 10 minutes and it may yet prompt a rethink on backline substitutions at the death.
Richards was named Melville’s player of the day, but coach Sam Wilkinson also had praise for midfielders Liam Hayes and Logan Wisnewski, who he called “the heartbeat of the team” and Sean Liddicoat – of whom he wondered aloud if he had brought Canterbury United “hex” north to Melville.
Wilkinson said it could be “a cruel and unforgiving game”.
“For most of the game wee were really good, but we are now zero from three, and can’t get comfortable with this,” he said. “I still think we are capable of stringing 4-5 wins together and will be able to dominate other teams.”
Auckland coach Hiroshi Miyazawa said it was the best of the three games his team have played this season, called Richards’ goal ‘fantastic” and said Melville were well organised and coached, while his players showed great attitude.
Auckland are joint top of the premier league with central united. Melville are second from bottom.
In the curtainraiser Melville Reserves beat Auckland United 5-2, with goals from Davis Vhavha (2), Jerson Giraldo, Rau Raynel, and Ryen Lawrence.
Melville are away to Wanderers Sports Club (Porritt) in a very important derby on Saturday.