Thistle ‘superheroes’ turn up

Kapow! Premiership leaders knocked out of cup.

Kapow! Premiership leaders knocked out of cup.

Thistle’s Kane Stirton (left) and United’s Aaron Graham contest possession in an Eastern League football match. Stirton scored the goal that got his side on their way to a 4-1 victory over Napier City Rovers Seconds on Saturday, while Graham gave a man-of-the-match display in a 4-1 loss to Eskview. Picture by Liam Clayton

Batman, Robin and the rest of the superheroes turned up at Childers Road Reserve and wore blue.

That’s the simple explanation for Gisborne Thistle’s 4-1 victory over Napier City Rovers Seconds in Federation Cup football on Saturday.

On paper, the Jags’ mainly Eastern League team had no business beating the pacesetters of the Pacific Premiership, even though the visitors were a few short of their best line-up.

And the superhero script takes no account of the planning of coach John Stirton (Professor X), the goalscoring partnership of Nic Somerton and Davy Ure (Batman and Robin), the midfield craft of Dave Watson (Doctor Strange, for magical ability on the ball) and Kane Stirton (Wolverine), the defensive steel of centrebacks Chris Spurr (Superman) and George Andrew (Captain America), or the goalkeeping heroics of Raymond Rickard (Spider-Man).

Neither does it acknowledge the solidity of rightback Stefan Faber (Iron Man) and leftback Jake Robertson (Thor), the gritty midfield defence of Jason Scott (The Hulk), or the attacking nous of co-opted striker Phill Gill (Green Lantern).

And when Thistle needed fresh legs, they had Matias Aguayo (The Flash), on for Stirton; Hudson Leite (The Silver Surfer), on for Gill; Glen Udall (Star-Lord), on for Watson; and David Raggett (Donatello, of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), on for Scott.

Coach Stirton said it was a victory for the whole club.

“We had help from the first-team players who didn’t play in the Chatham Cup (Ure, Spurr and Robertson) and our Eastern League Division 2 team, Vintage (Udall and Raggett),” he said.

Stirton went with a midfield three, compressed into the middle of the park. It might have left space on the flanks, but Ure and Gill helped out when needed. It was telling that all four of Thistle’s replacements were for players in this “engine room” that demanded so much.

Napier opened the scoring, in the 13th minute, when Spurr was tackled just outside the penalty area. The ball was played to the Napier left side, then switched to the right, where rightback Leyton Ross took a touch and buried it from 12 metres.

Spurr’s mistake seemed to bring out the best in him. From that point on, he had a stormer, tackling, intercepting and blocking. Alongside him, Andrew was strong, mobile and determined. Back home on holiday from his US university, he will be a valuable addition to Thistle’s ranks for the next two months.

Instead of venting frustration when Thistle conceded the goal, coach Stirton yelled on to midfield general Watson: “Davy! Let’s play soccer!”

In other words, “Let’s do what we’re good at, and play expansive football”.

But to do that, Thistle had to withstand a powerful first-half barrage from a Napier side who had some old hands among their willing youngsters.

Standout players

Experienced centreback Regan Cameron was their standout player, while teenagers Kaeden Atkins — alongside Cameron in the middle of defence — and left midfielder Zac Madsen were also impressive. Madsen was a threat whenever he ran at Thistle defenders.

Napier co-coach Terry O’Neill, a founder member of the City Rovers club, said his side were “a little light” in playing strength but should have overcome that.

“Thistle deserved it,” he said.

“They outplayed us.”

Nevertheless, when Kane Stirton went to ground in the Napier penalty area in the 25th minute and scored from the resulting penalty, it seemed like it was still only a matter of time before Napier would pull away, such was their territorial dominance.

In the 38th minute, a curling shot from Napier’s left flank looked as if it would sneak in at the far post until Robertson headed clear. Two minutes later, Andrew got in the way of a belter headed for goal.

Even when Thistle broke out of defence, it was hard to see how their strike force would get away from the faster Napier rearguard.

In the second half, they showed us how.

Gill found space on the right in the 48th minute and sent over a perfectly weighted cross for Somerton to head home at the far post.

Four minutes later, Ure crossed from almost the same position, and Somerton just missed getting on the end of it.

In the 58th minute, Scott forced his legs to take him on a run down the left. He cut inside and almost ran the ball into the goal, but keeper Dan Robinson — another teenager — blocked his progress.

The ball broke to Ure, who scored from close range . . . 3-1.

With over half an hour to go, the game was still within Napier’s reach.

Thistle’s passing and ability to finish had given them a chance of victory; their defending in the next 30 minutes earned them it.

Napier laid siege to the Thistle goal and the Jags responded by hauling back reinforcements. Somerton was alone up front for much of the second half.

The substitutes came on as required by injury rather than strategy. Aguayo brought his pace and enthusiasm to the contest, Leite was skilful and willing in support of Somerton, Udall made his mark with two first-time passes that put attackers away, and Raggett shored up the defensive effort at just the right time.

Rickard made the save of the match in the 67th minute, springing high to his left to claw away a goalbound shot; Spurr cleared the loose ball. In the 82nd, Spurr blocked a shot; in the 84th, Cameron headed just over; in the 85th, Andrew made a sliding block; in the 87th, Spurr made a vital interception; in the 88th Somerton scored.

Udall’s pass over the top put Somerton away on the right. He veered to his left, delayed his shot to get a better angle and coolly placed it wide of the advancing keeper . . . 4-1, and it was all over.

Referee Liam O’Rorke, of Hawke’s Bay, kept control without getting in the way.

Gisborne United lose Federation Cup game

Gisborne United lost their Federation Cup game, against Eskview, 4-1 at Harry Barker Reserve on Saturday.

Coach Stu Cranswick felt his side played well enough, but couldn’t put away their chances until it was too late, and lost goals at crucial times.

Heavy Equipment Services United fell behind to goals after 20 and 30 minutes, then conceded two more early in the second half.

Striker Aubrey Yates scored for United from close range in a goalmouth scramble near the end.

Eskview are fourth in the 10-team Pacific Premiership in which United’s first team are lying third. But the United Eastern League side did not look outclassed.

Regular centreback Jonathan Purcell could not play because he rolled his ankle at work, and fellow centreback Kim Perano had family commitments.

Former Lytton High School defender Carl Shaw, now in his late 20s and back in town after spells in Auckland and Australia, combined with midfielder Aaron Graham in the centre of defence. They both did well, and Graham was “man of the match”.

Goalkeeper Cody Keepa had a steady game and couldn’t do much about the goals, and in midfield, skipper Craig Christophers popped up all over the place.

Because they were down a couple of players, United brought in first-teamer Josh Adams, who spent time on both wings trying to find a way through.

In the first half, he cut in from the right and curled a shot just past the far post. Adams caused Eskview problems in both halves but the goals would not come.

Up front, Yates continued his improvement, gaining in confidence with game time.

Cranswick said it seemed that, at the moment, any luck in the offing was going the way of United’s opponents.

That could be bad news for some poor team when the luck drought breaks.

The match was well controlled by Gisborne referee Matt Hastings.

Batman, Robin and the rest of the superheroes turned up at Childers Road Reserve and wore blue.

That’s the simple explanation for Gisborne Thistle’s 4-1 victory over Napier City Rovers Seconds in Federation Cup football on Saturday.

On paper, the Jags’ mainly Eastern League team had no business beating the pacesetters of the Pacific Premiership, even though the visitors were a few short of their best line-up.

And the superhero script takes no account of the planning of coach John Stirton (Professor X), the goalscoring partnership of Nic Somerton and Davy Ure (Batman and Robin), the midfield craft of Dave Watson (Doctor Strange, for magical ability on the ball) and Kane Stirton (Wolverine), the defensive steel of centrebacks Chris Spurr (Superman) and George Andrew (Captain America), or the goalkeeping heroics of Raymond Rickard (Spider-Man).

Neither does it acknowledge the solidity of rightback Stefan Faber (Iron Man) and leftback Jake Robertson (Thor), the gritty midfield defence of Jason Scott (The Hulk), or the attacking nous of co-opted striker Phill Gill (Green Lantern).

And when Thistle needed fresh legs, they had Matias Aguayo (The Flash), on for Stirton; Hudson Leite (The Silver Surfer), on for Gill; Glen Udall (Star-Lord), on for Watson; and David Raggett (Donatello, of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), on for Scott.

Coach Stirton said it was a victory for the whole club.

“We had help from the first-team players who didn’t play in the Chatham Cup (Ure, Spurr and Robertson) and our Eastern League Division 2 team, Vintage (Udall and Raggett),” he said.

Stirton went with a midfield three, compressed into the middle of the park. It might have left space on the flanks, but Ure and Gill helped out when needed. It was telling that all four of Thistle’s replacements were for players in this “engine room” that demanded so much.

Napier opened the scoring, in the 13th minute, when Spurr was tackled just outside the penalty area. The ball was played to the Napier left side, then switched to the right, where rightback Leyton Ross took a touch and buried it from 12 metres.

Spurr’s mistake seemed to bring out the best in him. From that point on, he had a stormer, tackling, intercepting and blocking. Alongside him, Andrew was strong, mobile and determined. Back home on holiday from his US university, he will be a valuable addition to Thistle’s ranks for the next two months.

Instead of venting frustration when Thistle conceded the goal, coach Stirton yelled on to midfield general Watson: “Davy! Let’s play soccer!”

In other words, “Let’s do what we’re good at, and play expansive football”.

But to do that, Thistle had to withstand a powerful first-half barrage from a Napier side who had some old hands among their willing youngsters.

Standout players

Experienced centreback Regan Cameron was their standout player, while teenagers Kaeden Atkins — alongside Cameron in the middle of defence — and left midfielder Zac Madsen were also impressive. Madsen was a threat whenever he ran at Thistle defenders.

Napier co-coach Terry O’Neill, a founder member of the City Rovers club, said his side were “a little light” in playing strength but should have overcome that.

“Thistle deserved it,” he said.

“They outplayed us.”

Nevertheless, when Kane Stirton went to ground in the Napier penalty area in the 25th minute and scored from the resulting penalty, it seemed like it was still only a matter of time before Napier would pull away, such was their territorial dominance.

In the 38th minute, a curling shot from Napier’s left flank looked as if it would sneak in at the far post until Robertson headed clear. Two minutes later, Andrew got in the way of a belter headed for goal.

Even when Thistle broke out of defence, it was hard to see how their strike force would get away from the faster Napier rearguard.

In the second half, they showed us how.

Gill found space on the right in the 48th minute and sent over a perfectly weighted cross for Somerton to head home at the far post.

Four minutes later, Ure crossed from almost the same position, and Somerton just missed getting on the end of it.

In the 58th minute, Scott forced his legs to take him on a run down the left. He cut inside and almost ran the ball into the goal, but keeper Dan Robinson — another teenager — blocked his progress.

The ball broke to Ure, who scored from close range . . . 3-1.

With over half an hour to go, the game was still within Napier’s reach.

Thistle’s passing and ability to finish had given them a chance of victory; their defending in the next 30 minutes earned them it.

Napier laid siege to the Thistle goal and the Jags responded by hauling back reinforcements. Somerton was alone up front for much of the second half.

The substitutes came on as required by injury rather than strategy. Aguayo brought his pace and enthusiasm to the contest, Leite was skilful and willing in support of Somerton, Udall made his mark with two first-time passes that put attackers away, and Raggett shored up the defensive effort at just the right time.

Rickard made the save of the match in the 67th minute, springing high to his left to claw away a goalbound shot; Spurr cleared the loose ball. In the 82nd, Spurr blocked a shot; in the 84th, Cameron headed just over; in the 85th, Andrew made a sliding block; in the 87th, Spurr made a vital interception; in the 88th Somerton scored.

Udall’s pass over the top put Somerton away on the right. He veered to his left, delayed his shot to get a better angle and coolly placed it wide of the advancing keeper . . . 4-1, and it was all over.

Referee Liam O’Rorke, of Hawke’s Bay, kept control without getting in the way.

Gisborne United lose Federation Cup game

Gisborne United lost their Federation Cup game, against Eskview, 4-1 at Harry Barker Reserve on Saturday.

Coach Stu Cranswick felt his side played well enough, but couldn’t put away their chances until it was too late, and lost goals at crucial times.

Heavy Equipment Services United fell behind to goals after 20 and 30 minutes, then conceded two more early in the second half.

Striker Aubrey Yates scored for United from close range in a goalmouth scramble near the end.

Eskview are fourth in the 10-team Pacific Premiership in which United’s first team are lying third. But the United Eastern League side did not look outclassed.

Regular centreback Jonathan Purcell could not play because he rolled his ankle at work, and fellow centreback Kim Perano had family commitments.

Former Lytton High School defender Carl Shaw, now in his late 20s and back in town after spells in Auckland and Australia, combined with midfielder Aaron Graham in the centre of defence. They both did well, and Graham was “man of the match”.

Goalkeeper Cody Keepa had a steady game and couldn’t do much about the goals, and in midfield, skipper Craig Christophers popped up all over the place.

Because they were down a couple of players, United brought in first-teamer Josh Adams, who spent time on both wings trying to find a way through.

In the first half, he cut in from the right and curled a shot just past the far post. Adams caused Eskview problems in both halves but the goals would not come.

Up front, Yates continued his improvement, gaining in confidence with game time.

Cranswick said it seemed that, at the moment, any luck in the offing was going the way of United’s opponents.

That could be bad news for some poor team when the luck drought breaks.

The match was well controlled by Gisborne referee Matt Hastings.

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