Cranswick in eye-catching form

You can never, ever take your eyes off Stu Cranswick in a football match.

No one knows this better than Thistle Massive coach John Stirton. He even had a plan for keeping the Gisborne United player-coach in check.

Cranswick still scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 win in the first meeting of two of the “big three” in Gisborne Championship football at Childers Road Reserve on Saturday.

With this win, Heavy Equipment Services United pulled alongside Sunshine Brewery Wainui Sharks in the standings, with five wins from five games, and sit on top of the table by virtue of their superior goal difference.

Sharks had a bye at the weekend.

Carpet Court Thistle Massive are third, with four wins to go with Saturday’s loss to United.

Up 3-0 at halftime, United put the game to bed 25 minutes into the second half.

Jimmy Holden, who had come on to play in right midfield, met a left-wing cross from Damon Husband and crashed home a right-foot volley from the far corner of the goal area.

Cranswick rated it the best goal he had seen Holden score.

United’s first goal, after 15 minutes, had a touch of good fortune about it. Cranswick sent in a corner that found a United head at the far post. The ball hit the ground with such force that it bounced over the head of Thistle keeper Raymond Rickard and into the net.

Ten minutes later, Cranswick scored his first. He chased a long ball out of defence and, from 30 metres and with defenders closing in, lobbed the still-bouncing ball over Rickard and under the bar.

Five minutes before the break, Cranswick latched on to a through-ball down the left from central midfielder Mal Furlan and from just inside the penalty area stabbed it home at the near post.

After Holden had removed any possibility of a Thistle comeback, Cranswick completed his hat-trick.

In the 80th minute, he ran on to a ball from the midfield down the left, held off the challenge of a Thistle defender, then opened up his body position to bend the ball with his right foot into the far corner of the goal.

While Cranswick was scoring goals at one end, Kim Perano was stopping them at the other.

With regular keeper Alan Knight unavailable, Perano — usually an outfield defender but also capable in goal — stepped up. That in itself was no small feat, as he is still nursing an Achilles tendon injury from a preseason beach fitness run. Thursday training was the only preparation he had, but he was in outstanding form on Saturday.

Also worth a mention in a solid team performance were Ben Hansen, who gave further evidence of his versatility with a fine showing at rightback, and central midfielders Craig Christophers and Furlan.

Cranswick tried a different formation, and was pleased with the result.

He knows he can use Aaron Graham at the back, alongside Jonathan Purcell, to good effect. And if things get desperate, Graham can push forward into the midfield role he has filled so capably in the past.

United were “up” for the match. They had been looking forward to it after a string of games against teams from the lower end of the table.

Cranswick said they had tried to keep standards up in these games but it was easier to lift their performance for tougher opposition.

Thistle’s Stirton said he had players away or injured, but that was no excuse.

“We had a good enough side to compete with them but we just didn’t play well enough,” he said.

Midfielder Kieran Ryan and defender Michael Rogers were among the established players missing, and Kane Stirton was carrying an injury so he didn’t start, but Thistle still had chances to score.

Defensive midfielder Matt Smith and deep-lying striker Chris Spurr were Thistle’s best on a disappointing day, but Stirton is hoping the result acts as motivation for the Bailey Cup match between these teams on June 1.

In other Championship games, Gisborne Boys’ High School were 2-0 up against Lytton High School within 25 minutes and went on to win 3-0.

Boys’ High, under the guidance of South American coach Sebastian Itman, are playing football that is making the other teams sit up and take notice.

Thistle Vintage beat QRS Wairoa Athletic 5-1, Coates Associates Wainui Demons beat Riverina 8-0 and ShipWreck Bohemians beat GBHS (2) 2-0.

In the Conference, ITM Thistle beat Lytton (2) 11-1, Three Rivers Medical Bohemians beat Campion College 6-1 and Heavy Equipment Services United beat GBHS (3) 9-0.

Women’s games on Sunday were also one-sided. Gisborne Girls’ High School beat Riverina 13-0, Heavy Equipment Services United beat Tatapouri Marist Thistle 7-0 and Campion beat Top 10 Holiday Park Bohemians 6-1.

You can never, ever take your eyes off Stu Cranswick in a football match.

No one knows this better than Thistle Massive coach John Stirton. He even had a plan for keeping the Gisborne United player-coach in check.

Cranswick still scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 win in the first meeting of two of the “big three” in Gisborne Championship football at Childers Road Reserve on Saturday.

With this win, Heavy Equipment Services United pulled alongside Sunshine Brewery Wainui Sharks in the standings, with five wins from five games, and sit on top of the table by virtue of their superior goal difference.

Sharks had a bye at the weekend.

Carpet Court Thistle Massive are third, with four wins to go with Saturday’s loss to United.

Up 3-0 at halftime, United put the game to bed 25 minutes into the second half.

Jimmy Holden, who had come on to play in right midfield, met a left-wing cross from Damon Husband and crashed home a right-foot volley from the far corner of the goal area.

Cranswick rated it the best goal he had seen Holden score.

United’s first goal, after 15 minutes, had a touch of good fortune about it. Cranswick sent in a corner that found a United head at the far post. The ball hit the ground with such force that it bounced over the head of Thistle keeper Raymond Rickard and into the net.

Ten minutes later, Cranswick scored his first. He chased a long ball out of defence and, from 30 metres and with defenders closing in, lobbed the still-bouncing ball over Rickard and under the bar.

Five minutes before the break, Cranswick latched on to a through-ball down the left from central midfielder Mal Furlan and from just inside the penalty area stabbed it home at the near post.

After Holden had removed any possibility of a Thistle comeback, Cranswick completed his hat-trick.

In the 80th minute, he ran on to a ball from the midfield down the left, held off the challenge of a Thistle defender, then opened up his body position to bend the ball with his right foot into the far corner of the goal.

While Cranswick was scoring goals at one end, Kim Perano was stopping them at the other.

With regular keeper Alan Knight unavailable, Perano — usually an outfield defender but also capable in goal — stepped up. That in itself was no small feat, as he is still nursing an Achilles tendon injury from a preseason beach fitness run. Thursday training was the only preparation he had, but he was in outstanding form on Saturday.

Also worth a mention in a solid team performance were Ben Hansen, who gave further evidence of his versatility with a fine showing at rightback, and central midfielders Craig Christophers and Furlan.

Cranswick tried a different formation, and was pleased with the result.

He knows he can use Aaron Graham at the back, alongside Jonathan Purcell, to good effect. And if things get desperate, Graham can push forward into the midfield role he has filled so capably in the past.

United were “up” for the match. They had been looking forward to it after a string of games against teams from the lower end of the table.

Cranswick said they had tried to keep standards up in these games but it was easier to lift their performance for tougher opposition.

Thistle’s Stirton said he had players away or injured, but that was no excuse.

“We had a good enough side to compete with them but we just didn’t play well enough,” he said.

Midfielder Kieran Ryan and defender Michael Rogers were among the established players missing, and Kane Stirton was carrying an injury so he didn’t start, but Thistle still had chances to score.

Defensive midfielder Matt Smith and deep-lying striker Chris Spurr were Thistle’s best on a disappointing day, but Stirton is hoping the result acts as motivation for the Bailey Cup match between these teams on June 1.

In other Championship games, Gisborne Boys’ High School were 2-0 up against Lytton High School within 25 minutes and went on to win 3-0.

Boys’ High, under the guidance of South American coach Sebastian Itman, are playing football that is making the other teams sit up and take notice.

Thistle Vintage beat QRS Wairoa Athletic 5-1, Coates Associates Wainui Demons beat Riverina 8-0 and ShipWreck Bohemians beat GBHS (2) 2-0.

In the Conference, ITM Thistle beat Lytton (2) 11-1, Three Rivers Medical Bohemians beat Campion College 6-1 and Heavy Equipment Services United beat GBHS (3) 9-0.

Women’s games on Sunday were also one-sided. Gisborne Girls’ High School beat Riverina 13-0, Heavy Equipment Services United beat Tatapouri Marist Thistle 7-0 and Campion beat Top 10 Holiday Park Bohemians 6-1.

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