Impressive start to pre-season
Melville coach Ian McGrath was pleased with his team’s first preseason outing, which ended in a 4-2 away win over Auckland United, the powerful new amalgamation of Onehunga Sports and Three Kings United.
UPDATE: Melville play Western Springs at Gower Park on Saturday, Feb 22, 11.30am Reserves; 1pm first team.
“Lots to enjoy and plenty to work on,” was McGrath’s summary of the game at Seymour Park.
“The result was well deserved. Not that preseason is necessarily about that, but the scoreline certainly reflected the balance of play and our ability to control the outcome over two halves of football.”
A late penalty to Auckland United allowed the hosts to claw back a degree of respectability.
Melville started brightly and controlled possession for large periods of the first half. A combination of recycling possession and penetrative passing in between and behind their defensive lines produced early opportunities and it wasn’t long before Melville took the lead with a neatly taken finish by exciting new signing Riku Sojeima (of Japanese origin).
Receiving the ball to feet inside the penalty area, his first touch took him effortlessly past the first defender and he tucked the ball away in the far corner without breaking stride in the 15th minute.
Auckland United came back into the game with a flurry of one-off attacks, but strong defending and resilient goal keeping by debutant Joe Knowles denied the experienced Sean Lovemore on a couple of occasions.
An individual error gifted Auckland an equaliser against the run of play, but Melville didn’t have to wait long to regain the lead.
Levi Clark clipped a sublime dipping and curling left foot shot into the corner stanchion of the goal from the edge of the box.
With a 2-1 lead at half time, McGrath made nine outfield player changes to the starting eleven to continue the theme of experimentation and challenge the players. Aaron Scott and Mark Jones were among those who came on at half time.
But the game continued in much the same vein. Controlled in possession, assured in defence and regularly penetrating on attack, it was no surprise when Melville scored two goals in quick succession midway through the half.
The first was a beautiful movement, which started on the right side of midfield and ended up in the back of the net with three or four crisp passes. Owen Comber and Sojeima combined really well down the right flank and a classic pull back to the penalty spot with pin point precision was swept into the far corner of the net by the oncoming Jones, who showed his experience and class with the seamless finish.
A similar move involving some great combination play, released Jones into a similar position in behind the left full back and an equally accurate cross to the far post was tucked away from close range by Lesley Kivolyn at the back post to make the scoreline 4-1 and offer Melville a deserved cushion with 15 minutes to go.
A last gasp penalty for Auckland United was converted with ease to make the final score 4-2.
“Overall, a decent days work in our first outing and against strong opposition,” McGrath said.
“Given that we were handing debuts to several players and integrating a combination of youth and core first team experience across the 90 minutes, there was lots to enjoy and plenty to work on.
“I asked the players to try an implement some of the basic principles that we are starting to establish at training and to play with a smile on their faces.
“The result wasn’t a bonus because we thoroughly deserved to win the game, but I was more interested in how players coped with the different challenges that they faced today and I was pleased with the intent of every aspect of our play.”
Melville will now prepare to host Western Springs at Gower Park on Saturday, which should provide an equally tough test and another great opportunity.