Otago United's warm-down was more like a jig.
After five starts and five losses in this season's New Zealand Football Championship, they were expected to be cannon fodder at Westpac Stadium yesterday afternoon.
Their opponents Team Wellington hadn't made a glorious start to their campaign either but, flush with the finest players from the Phoenix's youth programme, last season's beaten grand finalists still looked destined to record a healthy win.
Only Otago ended up as victors, thanks to Joel Stevens' 84th-minute goal, which secured the southerners their first points of the competition.
So while Otago hopped, skipped and hugged their way through their post-match warm-down, Team Wellington coach Matt Calcott simply waved an arm at his slightly stunned players and told them to get off the pitch and into the dressing sheds.
Once inside, there wouldn't have been much that needed to be said.
Team Wellington had enjoyed all the ball and created all the chances and simply hadn't been good enough to turn them into goals.
Otago were reasonably resolute, but awfully limited in terms of quality and ideas on the few occasions they had possession.
And yet they won, thanks to a classic route-one goal from Stevens, who found himself one-on-one with Wellington keeper Scott Basalaj, after Ben Fitzpatrick had nodded on a hopeful long ball.
It was an appalling way for Team Wellington to concede, considering that Luke Rowe ought to have scored only seconds before.
With Otago's defenders defeated by a Hamish Watson cut-back, all Rowe had to do was direct a shot on target.
Instead he blazed his effort well over Liam Little's bar and while he was still wondering how he'd missed, Otago's players were suddenly all mobbing Stevens.
Team Wellington's best other chance had come in the 77th minute from a corner, when Henry Fa'arodo wriggled away from his near-post marker to nod the ball goalward.
Tom Cooper, stationed by the right-hand post, managed to block Fa'arodo's effort and the ball was eventually scrambled to safety.
Otherwise Team Wellington never looked in great danger of scoring. Watson, Tom Biss and Corey Chettleburgh were lively up front, without ever being able to create anything clearcut.
The side's best player was central defender Alec Solomons, who looks a very likely sort.
As for the team, two wins from five outings isn't the return they would have anticipated.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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