Sharp shooting delivers victory
Team Taranaki moved up to fourth on the Western premiership table after a 5-2 win over North End in Palmerston North on Saturday.
The win lifts Taranaki to within six points of competition leaders Wanganui City, who they host in New Plymouth on Sunday.
While the scoreline looked convincing, the match still provided some frustrating moments for coach Ian McGrath.
"We were the far superior team over the 90 minutes and we could have scored more goals," he said.
"Vinnie Sharp had a hand in all five goals, showing a timely return to form – scoring two goals and creating three."
In the opening 20 minutes, Team Taranaki dominated the game with slick passages of play as they combined well.
"We played the game at a quick tempo and they just could not contain us," McGrath said.
The first goal came after 15 minutes, with Danilo Kuhl catching a defender in possession of the ball and slipping the pass to Sharp who steered the ball home.
It appeared that Taranaki would extend the lead with little difficulty but selfish play in the attacking third wasted several opportunities.
"That said, we still had several other good chances," McGrath said.
"Bjorn Vossen went close with a header, Dommi Squatriti forced a good save from the goalkeeper and Ashley Reader Noakes watched as a stunning volley dipped over the cross bar."
North End grabbed an unlikely equaliser on the half hour against the run of play from a well-taken set piece.
The experienced Gary Hodge rose at the back post to head the ball home after he was left unmarked.
"We were guilty of letting our foot off the gas for the remainder of the half," McGrath said.
Taranaki took the lead on the stroke of halftime when Sharp worked his way into the penalty area and cut the ball back for Shaun Bracegirdle to side foot the ball in from close range.
While less than satisfied with the halftime score, McGrath was satisfied with the way his side came out in the second half.
However, he admitted to becoming frustrated.
"Our momentum seemed to be thwarted at every opportunity," he said.
"A poor pass or wrong option taken frustrated everyone on more than one occasion."
North End made it 2-2 with a quick break on the counter-attack to add to the frustration.
Luckily for Taranaki, North End gifted them a third goal when they took a quick free kick in their penalty area, only for the misguided pass to arrive at the feet of Sharp who passed the ball into the back of an empty net.
"That goal seemed to give us the lift that we were looking for and in the 10 minutes that followed, we finally started to find our stride again, scoring two quick goals that capped a valuable win and a deserved three points," he said.
Sharp was instrumental in both goals, delivering a pinpoint cross for Bracegirdle to power into the net and squaring the ball across the goal for Squatriti to tap in at the far post.