Team Taranaki dominated a spirited Red Sox side to score a 5-1 away victory at Palmerston North on Saturday.
The convincing win kept Team Taranaki on top of the leaderboard in the Federation League after two games of the second round.
Closest rivals Wanganui Athletic, who are two points back, won their match on Saturday against Havelock North 1-0.
Red Sox started the game brightly and were enterprising when on attack, but not for long.
Patrick Hay capitalised on a home side's error midway through the first half to tuck away the simplest of chances at the second attempt, after the goalkeeper made a decent first save.
A bad pass between two Red Sox defenders resulted in a turnover of possession and a quick through ball from Domenico Squatriti found Hay unmarked and his pace got him quickly free of the defender to punish the home team.
Hayden Murray thought that he had extended the lead shortly afterwards only to have his tap in from two metres ruled out for an apparent offside decision which mystified most onlookers. The only other chance of note came from the same combination that created the first goal. Squatriti again turning provider with an accurate through ball to release Hay who pulled the ball back from the byline only to see a scrambling defender clear the ball off the toe of the incoming Ash Reader-Nokes.
A change of tactics by Team Taranaki at halftime paid dividends almost immediately after the restart. The message was to get the ball into the penalty area quicker and more often to pressure the Red Sox defence and early into the second half.
Team Taranaki scored not just one, but two quick goals to extend the score line to 3-0 and reflect a dominant position in the game.
Reader-Nokes was the first to take advantage, sneaking in front of the goalkeeper and defender to slip the ball over the line from close range after a deep cross by Morgan Hall and Hayden Murray added the third with a well-controlled side foot volley at the back post after another deep cross from left back Sam Sutton.
"It was a simple change of emphasis," said Team Taranaki coach Ian McGrath."We were trying to be too intricate on a rough pitch against a spirited team.
"They were happy to defend when we were playing in front of them, but on the odd occasion we played the ball into the penalty area they looked shaky."
Livewire Team Taranaki striker Squatriti also got in on the act, curling a low side footed shot into the bottom corner to make it 4-0 and adding a fifth, which he stabbed in from close range.
In a purple patch in front of goal, Squatriti was unlucky not to grab his hat-trick from two more excellent chances that he created for himself.
Red Sox took advantage of a favourable offside decision to score a late consolation goal to leave the final score at 5-1 and reflect a dominant second half performance and a comfortable victory in the end.
Squatriti was the standout player of the match with his tireless running and excellent finishing.
"He was both a goal provider and a goal scorer and really did deserve to get a hat-trick, but it was not to be," McGrath said.
- Taranaki Daily News
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