Melville beat Chatham Cup holders

Melville have finished the northern premier league season on a high note in beating Chatham Cup winners Birkenhead United 3-1 at Gower Park.

The win wasn’t enough to escape relegation, but gave Melville the consolation of having beaten the top two teams in the league at home, in a difficult season.

It was Birkenhead’s first defeat in 14 matches.

“Being relegated won’t change the geography of the club,” said coach Steve Williams. “Our fundamentals are strong on facilities, administration and finance, and like Waitakere City did this year, I can see Melville doing the same thing and bouncing straight back next season.”

Melville took a 27th minute lead against Birkenhead when centre back Johnny “Utah” Fletcher powered home a header from a corner. It was Fletcher’s first goal for Melville, and possibly his last, as he is shifting from Raglan to Northland.

Jono Viviani had to negotiate some rugged Birkenhead tackles. PHOTO: Cordwainer Bull.

Jono Viviani had to negotiate some rugged Birkenhead tackles. PHOTO: Cordwainer Bull.

Dan Morgan equalised for Birkenhead five minutes later with a slick curling shot from distance.

But Melville struck early in the second half. A Marc Evans shot took a deflection, and crept in off the post for a 2-1 lead.

Midfielder Jake Bayliss was in fine form against Birkenhead.

Midfielder Jake Bayliss was in fine form against Birkenhead.

In the final five minutes Evans sealed the game with a brilliant strike. he wriggled down the right wing, cut in and dinked a perfect left foot shot inside the far post, for his 15th first team goal of the season.

“My best left-footed goal this campaign,” he reflected.

Ryan Taylor captained Melville in the absence of suspended skipper Aaron Scott.

Birkenhead’s acting assistant coach Jarrod Smith said Melville had been the better team on the day.

Melville Old Boys Michael Mayne and Sam Wilkinson were among impressed spectators.

Melville Old Boys Michael Mayne and Sam Wilkinson were among impressed spectators.

Melville’s champion reserve team lost 2-3 to Birkenhead.

Meanwhile Birkenhead now play Western Springs on Wednesday night, in a match which will decide whether Wanderers Sports Club get relegated.

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