Manawatu start with victory to celebrate
The YoungHeart Manawatu youth team broke the franchise's losing hoodoo at Memorial Park, with a 3-2 win over Canterbury United in their first national youth league game of the season yesterday.
The YoungHeart youth team, now the main Manawatu team after the seniors were booted from the national league, won at home, something the senior side hadn't done for years.
They had to work hard for it though as they came from behind to beat Canterbury, thanks to a second-half hat-trick from Malcolm Finnie.
Manawatu assistant coach Garry Hodge, who is in charge while Steve Burnley is away, was happy to start their campaign in exciting fashion.
"It's always great to get a win especially to come from behind twice and then get the lead, that's great," Hodge said.
Manawatu were down 1-0 at halftime, which Hodge said was a soft goal, before they picked it up after the break.
The game was tied up at 2-2 with five minutes to play before Finnie won the game for them.
He stole the ball from a Canterbury defender and raced away on his own, slamming it past the keeper from the edge of the box to spark cheers from the crowd not heard at Memorial Park in a long time.
YoungHeart are almost a new organisation following the overhaul when the senior side was chopped last year, so a win over Canterbury was a good result.
"I didn't know what to expect or where we were in the competition," Hodge said. "Personally I haven't experienced this competition before. I wasn't sure of the quality of the other teams.
"Obviously we've got quality players here, but it's still difficult to judge without actually playing them."
It is a youth team, but two over-aged players are allowed to play on game day and Manawatu had the experienced pair of goalkeeper Matt Borren and defender Nathan Cooksley who went well.