Waitakere all but seal NZ Premiership top spot
Waitakere United closed in on a fifth NZ Football Premiership minor title, beating YoungHeart Manawatu 4-0 to extend their lead at the top of the table to seven points.
With chasing pair Hawke's Bay United and Auckland City playing out a 1-1 draw in Napier, defending champions Waitakere are now red hot favourites to seal top spot, a position that ensures a semi-final playoff against fourth place, a position currently held by Canterbury United after they dumped southern rivals Otago United 2-0 in Dunedin.
Waitakere - undefeated in their last 12 competitive matches stretching back to last season's playoffs - were tested by a game Manawatu side.
Manawatu created four scoring chances in the first half with Tom Mosquera hitting the post midway through the second. The visitors' good work was undone when slack marking at corners saw All Whites defender Tim Myers bag a brace.
Roy Krishna scored a quick-fire double late in the match to blow the score line out to 4-0, while Waitakere goalkeeper Danny Robinson celebrated his 100th Premiership match with a clean sheet. Robinson is the first goalkeeper to achieve the 100-game milestone.
Despite the positive performance, Manawatu now has two wins, four draws and 32 defeats from their last 38 ASB Premiership matches and sits at the bottom of the table.
Team Wellington's last gasp 1-0 win over Waikato FC means they are the only side outside the top four with a realistic chance of overhauling Canterbury and making a late dash for the playoffs. Waikato FC - hammered 9-1 by Waitakere in round nine - turned in a stirring performance yet came up short in the capital, losing 1-0 to an 89th minute diving header by Luke Rowe.
The win temporarily cut Canterbury United's lead over Wellington from six points to three but the Dragons 4-1 derby win over Otago United in Dunedin restored their advantage as they chase their fourth consecutive playoff appearance.
A double by Ken Yamamoto and goals for Andy Barton and Ashley Wellbourn - his third of the campaign - were enough to hand the Dragons their biggest derby win over Otago since the Premiership began in 2004. Otago never recovered from the loss of first half goals for Yamamoto and Wellbourn and after midfielder Scott Gannon was sent off midway through the second half, the home side crumbled. Regan Coldicott saved face for Otago snatching a consolation goal five minutes from end, his fifth of the season.
In Napier, the hotly anticipated showdown between Hawke's Bay United and Auckland City produced a feisty encounter at Bluewater Stadium. After a tense first half the visitors took the lead through former Royal Charleroi midfielder Pedro Santa Cecilia Garcia on 57 minutes before former All Whites striker Jarrod Smith levelled with a bullet header on 70 minutes.
The 1-1 result is enough to ensure Hawke's Bay United stay undefeated at home this season and take one step closer to an historic first ever playoff appearance.
The match was also notable for referee John Rowbury's replacement at halftime by fourth official Gareth Sheehan following a collision with Hawke's Bay skipper Stephen Hindmarch midway through the first half.
Next Saturday's feature match sees Waitakere United take on Auckland City in the 'Super City' derby at Kiwitea Street in a match that could be definitive in the chase for the minor premiership. Three matches are scheduled for Sunday, with Otago hosting Hawke's Bay United, Canterbury at home to Waikato FC and YoungHeart Manawatu entertaining Team Wellington in Palmerston North.