Canterbury United Dragons fail to fire a shot
Canterbury United have slumped to a third straight defeat and are now a distant fourth in the national football premiership - and that's where they deserve to be.
The Dragons limped to a 0-2 defeat to fifth-ranked Team Wellington at English Park yesterday in the worst performance of Keith Braithwaite's coaching tenure.
It was a double dose of doom and gloom for those Canterbury football fans who watched Italian ace Alessandro del Piero demolish the Wellington Phoenix 7-1 on Saturday night.
The carnage wasn't as catastrophic in Christchurch but the Dragons failed to fire a shot. Without injured captain Dan Terris and suspended All Whites midfielder Aaron Clapham the red-and-blacks were rudderless.
They remain mired on 15 points - 10 behind leaders and champions Waitakere United, who walloped Waikato FC 9-1 and four adrift of third-placed Hawke's Bay United.
Braithwaite admitted Canterbury "weren't at the races today". In fact, they were still stuck in their stalls well short of the starting gates.
"The quality wasn't there," Braithwaite bemoaned. He felt his charges "did OK" in the first half until Wellington struck from the penalty spot just before halftime.
"But we never got going in the second half. Our quality and passing in the final third was poor. It won't happen again," Braithwaite said.
Canterbury aren't quite a one-man team but they missed playmaker Clapham's class and his deadball delivery at freekick time. The Bayrev brothers, Vladimir and Dimitar - now back in Bulgaria - are also big losses.
Striker and stand-in skipper Russell Kamo was starved of the ball and had to drop too deep into midfield, leaving Ash Wellbourn without visible support.
Disappointingly, the Dragons' wide men, Darren White and Andy Barton, failed to stamp their mark in Clapham's absence. Both were dragged in the second half with White lucky to escape with just a yellow card after his role in a midpitch scuffle.
The Canterbury defenders will be sick of the sight of Luis Corrales, who has taunted them twice in successive weeks for two different clubs. The South American featured for Auckland City in their 3-1 win in Christchurch eight days ago and scored on debut for Team Wellington after moving back to the capital with his partner last week.
Corrales' quick feet caused consternation among Canterbury's rearguard with Tom Schwarz - the best of a below-par bunch for the home team - booked for chopping him down in the third minute.
There were few clearcut chances in the first half but Canterbury could have grabbed the lead in the 41st minute when Julyan Collett rose high to meet a White freekick but headed past the far post.
Wellington went ahead in injury time of the first spell when referee Mark Hester ruled Canterbury right back Louie Bush had brought down Corrales in the penalty area.
Braithwaite thought it was "a harsh penalty" because "Louie won the ball" before Corrales hit the deck. Wiremu Patrick made no mistake from the penalty spot.
Corrales provided the killer blow in the 71st minute. He held off his marker and clipped a shot into the far corner.
Ex-All White Allan Pearce and Fiji striker Roy Krishna both hammered hat-tricks in Waitakere's record 9-1 win over Waikato FC. Hawke's Bay United blasted Youngheart Manawatu 5-1 in Palmerston North and second-placed Auckland City beat Otago United 3-1.