Melville surge up the table
For the second time inside four days Melville bruised the title ambitions of a northern premier league club with a 2-1 home win over leaders North Shore United.
While it wasn’t the most eye-catching spectacle, the win has thrust Melville into fourth position – and even with a mathematical but unlikely chance of winning the league themselves if they win their final two games (away to Birkenhead August 27 and home to Central United August 31).
The match was also a useful dress rehearsal for Saturday’s Chatham Cup semifinal versus Bay Olympic (Olympic Park, Portage Rd, New Lynn, 2pm). Nobody wants to get over-confident, but if you can beat the leading northern premier league club you have to believe you have the goods against the second best from Division one.
Melville welcomed back Aaron Scott, Mark Jones and Liam Hayes from the roster of those missing from Wednesday – with Luke Searle and Josh Davies likely back for next Saturday.
But Shore have talent all over the pitch and it was a tight, even contest.
Melville coach Sam Wilkinson described it as “a tight, scruffy game”, while Shore’s Malcolm McPherson called it “not an attractive game of football”.
Melville had few chances, but Hayes went close to opening the scoring in the 10th minute with a blistering run up the middle, followed by a powerful low shot which hit the post.
But the real flashpoint came in the 63rd minute. Craig Pritchard – once again at the heart of everything creative for Melville – dribbled past two into the area and went down in a heap to earn a penalty. Shore felt hard done by – and perhaps replays will show the penalty was generous – while coach McPherson was dismissed from the dugout after making his feelings known.
Melville have scored from more free kicks than penalties this season, so it was a relief when latest penalty taker Federico Marquez tucked away a tidy left-footer.
Melville then gained a margin of comfort in the 77th minute when Pritchard brilliantly played the ball through for Marc Evans to have a clear one of one with the goalkeeper, which he expertly tucked away. It took his league and cup tally for the season to 25 from 24 matches.
There was 10 minutes of stoppage time played in the gathering Gower Park gloom, and in the 93rd minute Shore pulled a goal back with a header from Sergio Ferrer Sendra.
It was all hands on deck at the back for Melville as they withstood a wave of Shore attacks, but they held on to move into the top four for the first time this season.
Wilkinson named Flynn O’Brien – playing in the left back role – as his player of the day.
There was no reserve match after Shore defaulted.
# In Waikato Division 1 Melville Nobs suffered their first defeat of the season, falling 2-4 at home to Huntly Thistle. It means league title celebrations have been placed on ice, while the two teams meeting in the Waikato Cup final at Cambridge on Saturday at 2.30pm.