PN Marist let another lead slip in loss to Napier City Rovers
Inept defending and the class of Napier City Rovers striker Angus Kilkolly ended Palmerston North Marist's hopes of a first Central League win when they were beaten 4-2 at Memorial Park on Friday.
The loss leaves Marist at the foot of the Central League with previous multiple league winner Miramar Rangers, while the third-bottom side is three points up the table.
Despite his usual calm exterior as he sat on the sideline, Marist coach Shane Rufer must have mortified to see the gameplan he's worked on to be difficult to score against, go out the window with some very naive defending.
"We just made some basic mistakes," Rufer said. "We allowed them space to get behind us."
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Marist made the perfect start, scoring the opening goal through a freekick that defender Robbie Yule looked to get the slightest of touch to, wrong-footing Napier goalkeeper Ruben Parker.
The first 20 minutes was as good as it got, with Marist spending the remainder of the half chasing Kilkolly and fellow striker Josh Stevenson's shadows.
Marist went to sleep as an innocuous through ball went past the Marist defence and captain and stand-in central defender Nathan Cooksley was no match for Kilkolly, who then easily beat Marist keeper Max Hopf.
Marist didn't learn from that error with Kilkolly twice more beating at times non-existent defence, with only poor finishing stopping Napier taking the lead.
The writing was on the wall though and in the five minutes before halftime, first Stevenson then Kilkolly finished easy scoring chances, with each other putting the other in front of goal with only Hopf to beat.
The second half started horribly for Marist when Hopf came charging out to the edge of his goal area and knocking over Kilkolly when he had no chance of getting to the ball first.
Referee Antony Riley, who had an excellent game, wasted no time in rightly awarding the penalty with Kilkolly finishing his hat-trick.
Rufer made a couple of substitutes with Michael Sheridan filling the hole in front of the defence and Luke Palfreyman moving from a central position where he had made little input to a wide position where he began creating space.
Marist was still under pressure on occasions, but with them putting Napier under some pressure defensively, the last 30 minutes was more even.
Marist created three good chances with Adam Cowan finally making it 4-2 with a nice finish from a tight angle.
Although there's lot to work on especially defensively, where they need to keep concentrating on being goal side of opposition strikers, Marist have got players who can cause problems for opponents and the return of top defender Graham Craven will allow Cooksley back into the midfield.
The outstanding player for Marist was midfielder Rhys Janes, who may have made the odd passing error, but his strong defending and attacking ability will make him a key player if Marist want to survive in the Central League at the end of the season.