High fives as Waikato take well-earned win
No surprises in the change of approach for Waikato FC and no surprises at their delight in the result.
Under new coach Mark Cossey, Waikato climbed off the bottom of the ASB Premiership with a deserved 3-2 victory over Manawatu at Wellington's Westpac Stadium yesterday.
"It was a real good booster for the boys," Cossey said.
"They're loving it - the dressing room was vibrant afterwards.
"Players were laughing and high-fiveing each other, and why not?
"I think they've deserved to do that."
Cossey, who took over the reins from Declan Edge, had promised his team would be more incisive and adventurous going forward, and for the first 20 minutes they threatened to swamp their opponents.
Ryan Thomas almost put them ahead after three minutes when he combined with Rory Turner to split the defence, only to be denied by the boot of Manawatu keeper Matt Borren.
The attacking trio of Thomas, Turner and Sam Margetts had almost as many shots at goal in the opening 15 minutes as the side had managed in four previous matches, which had produced one goal and no points.
But they still needed a concrete return to gain the reward they deserved and got it from Turner, who turned his defender and fired into the far corner of the net after 18 minutes.
They should have doubled their lead seven minutes later when Margetts crossed for Adam Wallis to sidefoot home but Margetts was incorrectly flagged offside.
"I thought we played really well in that first 20 minutes," Cossey acknowledged.
"We sprayed it round, our shape was good and we could have had a few more goals. We probably should have buried them."
Thomas and centreback Raymond How went close to extending the lead but there were still some nervous moments at the back, and Manawatu had a dominant spell of their own in the early stages of the second half.
Manawatu did equalise when Thomas deflected a weak Thomas Mosquera free-kick past goalkeeper Matt Upton but any fears that setback would rock Waikato's confidence was immediate allayed when Margetts was fed by a breaking Jack Hobson-McVeigh and curled a sublime effort past Borren.
"We were quite poor in the first 15-20 minutes of the second half but got our shape back and changed a few things and Sam's goal was tremendous," Cossey said.
Thomas made it 3-1 with nine minutes left when he robbed a defender and finished coolly but Waikato did switch off in the dying minutes, allowing Mosquera a consolation in injury time.
Cossey said he simply wanted to tinker a little with Edge's plans of short-passing and quick movement to give the side a greater cutting edge.
"I've got no problem with us playing football.
"You could see in that first 20 with what we created came from good passing and movement.
"But I felt when we played from the back and got put under pressure we gave the ball away.
"We penetrated and got shots at goal; that's just what I wanted them to do, to give them the confidence to shoot."
Hobson-McVeigh was a prominent figure in midfield while Thomas would have grabbed the eye of a wider audience and Turner was another constant threat.