The Senior Reserves, sitting at the bottom of the Central Otago Football League second division were up against the division leaders, Charruas from Queenstown. The Senior Reserves were always going to be the underdog in this match and had nothing to lose with the Charruas being undefeated so far this season.
The Reserves were given clear instructions on how their coach wanted them to play—close down the middle of the pitch and make the Charruas play out wide, everyone to get back in defence when the ball was near goal, and the Wānaka team executed that perfectly. They forced Charruas to make mistakes and the Reserves capitalised on that and put the Queenstown team under real pressure.
Both teams had chances and the Reserves were very unlucky not to have put the ball into the net as the first half ended 0-0.
The second half started very much the same, with both teams playing good football. If you were watching and didn’t know who was playing you wouldn’t guess that it was a second division game and top versus bottom.
The deadlock was broken when the Senior Reserves were rewarded with a penalty kick inside the box and James Edward stepped up and slotted it past the keeper to put the Reserves up 1-0 with 20 minutes to go.
Unfortunately there would be no fairytale ending for the Reserves. With less than ten minutes to go, Charruas finally found a hole in the Wānaka Reserves defence and equalised.
The Charruas smelt blood and increased their tempo with fresh legs from their bench. The increased speed of the game severely stretched the Reserves, their only substitute was already on to cover an injured player. With every player giving it their all and having nothing left in their tank, the Reserves just couldn’t close down the Charruas last big attack. The desire to maintain their unbeaten record, especially to the bottom team, drove them on and eventually paid off. Charruas got the winning goal in the dying minutes and won the game 2-1.
Both teams played fantastic football and was one of the best matches this season. The Senior Reserves were outstanding. The back four of Michael Harray, Tom Wild, Oscar Humphreys and Jonathan Williams played very well together and had a great game. The midfield of captain for the day Matt Carr, Tallis Lupo, James Edward and new member of the team, James Russell, controlled the center of pitch perfectly and had a wonderful game. Right midfielder, Alex Whitehead who was a late inclusion to the team, had one of his best games of the season along with right back Michael Harray. Left mid Levi Fletcher had a fantastic game along with striker Zak Harbidge. Both were unlucky not to have their name on the score sheet.
At the end of the game, not one player could move. If you are going to lose, lose like that; leaving everything on the pitch. They were beaten because the better team won, not because they played badly. More depth in the squad and the game could have gone another direction. The Charruas were lucky to win that game and by their reaction at the end they knew it.