Home win at last
Super Melville have notched their most convincing win of the northern premier league season in beating Birkenhead United 3-1 at Gower Park.
It broke a sequence of five home losses – the worst in the club’s history since 1999 – and has prompted aberrant blogger Grigor Griffin to float the idea of releasing a new “I Saw The Unicorns Win at Home” cut-out-and-keep fan badge for sale to supporters who were present.
It was the first time this season Melville have won with more than a one-goal margin, and came in tricky circumstances, with skipper Aaron Scott invalided with an ankle injury after 10 minutes, and fellow key defender Federico Marquez a non-starter because of a hamstring injury.
It meant a heavy workload for Luke Searle, who himself took a heavy second half knock, Flynn O’Brien, and youngster Joel McMullan, who showed a lot of composure.
Harry Christensen-Rose came on for Scott, which meant it was not quite like-for-like, but he appeared to have given Melville an early lead only for it to be ruled out for off-side.
However the breakthrough came in the 33rd minute when Josh Davies latched onto an underhit backpass. The Welshman had time to hum the first two verses of Land of My Fathers and butter a plate of leeks before tapping into an empty net for his fourth goal of the season.
More joy was to follow as Melville crossed from the right for Marc Evans to stab the ball home first-time from close range just before half time.
And The Hitman then gave Melville a margin of comfort when he broke through the middle and nonchalantly rolled the ball into the goal for 3-0 in the 60th minute.
Melville co-coach Sam Wilkinson described it as a very satisfying goal.
“So this is what 3-0 feels like,” he said. “It was a good reminder.”
Evans also scored two goals the last time Melville played Birkenhead at Gower Park, back in September 2016 (when the result was also 3-1).
Luke Jorgensen pulled a goal back for Birkenhead when he had oodles of time on the edge of the area to pick his spot in the 80th minute.
Melville took Evans off in the 88th minute, primarily as a precautionary measure. Had he gone on to score a hat trick, he would have been insufferable in the clubrooms afterwards.
It’s a longstanding Melville tradition that on the rare occasions that their strikers finally get back to work, they always give player of the day to defenders.
That was again the case. While Evans had a solid game, making some fine runs only to see his team mates make some dull choices on the ball, and Davies worked very hard, it was O’Brien and McMullan who were singled out.
O’Brien had his best game of the season, while McMullan showed composure that belied his inexperience.
Searle – at 22, the veteran of the Melville defence – also gave a strong physical showing, though rather blotted his copybook with a less than cerebral booking for a defender, in throwing the ball away after a free kick was awarded. That was his fourth booking of the season, leaving him now just one away from suspension at a time when defenders are in short supply.
Christensen-Rose also picked up his third booking in three weeks with a deliberate foul. That’s a lot of bookings for someone who doesn’t really defend.
# With Scott and Marquez likely to miss next week’s Chatham Cup tie against Claudelands Rovers (2pm), the pressure will be on again in defence. Melville did not have anyone taller than 5 foot nothing on the bench against Birkenhead.
# Melville Reserves beat Birkenhead 2-1 thanks to a stunning late goal from Jerson Lagos Giraldo, who cut in and fired home a low shot from the right. Earlier Sean Leadley had given Melville a 10th minute lead.
# Melville Feds were held to a 2-2 draw by Tauranga Boys’ College after having led 2-0 at half time through Jordan Ditfort. Melville are fifth in the league, seven points off the lead.