The Wānaka AFC Senior Reserve Men’s team travelled to Cromwell last Thursday night to take Cromwell in a night game. Under lights and in cold conditions the first half saw an unsettled Reserves play all over the place and without any real structure.
Cromwell played mainly their A team and looked very composed. Around the 10-minute mark, Cromwell found the ball just over the halfway line and decided to have a go. The ball launched higher and higher towards the goal, and somehow the Wānaka goalkeeper looked like he totally lost sight of it in the big spotlight because he seemed to be waiting for the ball as it hit the back of the net in an open goal.
Not too long after that, disaster struck again when Wānaka lost their center back, Tom Wild, to injury. The Wānaka Reserves weren’t playing the kind of football they would have liked and seem to be content on just hacking the ball down field. A lack of cohesion and not passing the ball at critical times when a teammate was in a good position cost them, along with poor and weak finishing.
Cromwell, on the other hand, made the most of their chances and went two up just before halftime to go into the halftime break 2-0.
The second half saw a completely different Wānaka Reserve team. The halftime chat must have paid off because the team started to work the ball more and finally found their passing game where they drew in Cromwell players then hit their players out wide. The team seemed to have more space in the second half and moved the ball upfield and pulling the Cromwell defence out and then passing the ball back to their midfield.
This tactical play really put Cromwell on the back foot. The big turning point in the game about 15 minutes into the second half when Cromwell were rewarded with a penalty kick. This was the chance for Cromwell to take back control of the game, but the ball hit the top bar and bounced just before the line and somehow, with Cromwell and Wānaka players all around, the ball found its way into the Wānaka keeper’s hands.
That lost chance blew the wind out of Cromwell’s sails, but inflated Wānaka’s and they knew they were still in the game. Wānaka, feeling the momentum of the game shifting, pressed hard and kept to their tactics. They started to dominate possession of the ball and at the 25-minute mark left midfielder, Alex Whitehead, fired a beautiful ball just outside the box that the Cromwell keeper had no chance in saving. The score 2-1 to Cromwell.
Finally Wānaka’s Flynn Brown who entered the game from the bench managed to get a toe to the ball and put it in to tie up 2-2. With about five minutes on the clock Wānaka smelt blood and put pressure on Cromwell who were starting to fade. A substitute player, Weston Bell, who rocketed the ball and made no mistake in putting it into the back of the net to give the Wānaka AFC Reserves the lead and go up 3-2; giving the Wānaka team their third victory of the season.
A very well-deserved win and one they can be very proud of. Good games were had by every member of the team, but stand-outs were center midfielders Tallis Lupo and James Edwards, and left back Jonathan Williams, and captain and vice captain Michael Bopp and Matt Carr. With only one game left in the season for the Wānaka AFC Reserves, coach Leon Roode is confident his team can finish off their season on a high this Saturday at home against Alexandra B which they have conceded to twice already this year and put in another good performance.
“Our team struggled at the beginning of the season and especially in the first round with so many players new to each other, but as the season has moved along we started to gel and were much better in the second round, and were very unlucky not to have picked up more wins. This third and final round we are seeing some big improvements and the result are coming now, ” he said. Kick off on Saturday is 12:45 at the Wānaka Recreation Centre.