Wanderers fightback leaves Central wondering
When Matt Gibbons cleared a goal-bound shot off the line in the final seconds of the first half for Hamilton Wanderers, it merely felt like he was just delaying the inevitable.
The hosts at Porritt Stadium were trailing Central United 2-1 and, apart from a penalty against the run of play, rarely looked like troubling the visitors, let alone being able to stop them adding to their goal tally.
Yet 45 minutes later, Mark Cossey's side had somehow bounced back to score a 3-2 victory that pushed them to fourth place in the Northern League Premier Division standings.
Wanderers are earning a reputation for second-half fightbacks – in their previous home game they came from 5-0 down against Manurewa to be within centimetres of reducing the deficit to 5-4 before going down 6-3.
On Saturday, it was hard to deny them the rights to three points, despite being played off the park for most of the first half.
Central took the lead in the third minute when Wanderers defender Raymond How failed to cut out a penetrative pass from Jason Hicks that left Stu Hogg with an easy opportunity to dink home his finish over goalkeeper James Clement.
Seven minutes later Hicks was again prominent in teasing apart the Wanderers defence. The Waikato FC midfielder played a classy one-two with Hogg that left former All Whites striker Paul Urlovic the simple job of side-footing home from two metres out.
The hosts were mostly chasing shadows so it was a surprise when they pulled one back from the penalty spot when skipper Ricky Broderson had his heels clipped from behind. Jarrod Young's spot-kick wasn't convincing but Central keeper Patrick George failed to keep it out.
That encouraged Wanderers to aim more shots George's way, but they still had to rely on Gibbons' clearance to stay only a goal down at halftime.
They also had Clement to thank early in the second spell when he pulled off an excellent double save.
But the hosts were coming into the match and pulled level after 65 minutes when Mark Jones cut inside from the right flank, drifted past two defenders and slipped a pass through for Broderson to stretch and stab past George.
That rattled Central to the extent that they immediately lost possession from the kickoff and Graham Kay found David Smith advancing to blast past George from 22 metres out.
From there, Wanderers were rarely troubled to gain their fifth win in eight matches.
They may now start as favourites to beat Melville United in this weekend's local derby after United stayed in the relegation zone following a 4-1 away loss to East Coast Bays.
For a second successive season, Dillon Barnett notched all four goals for the hosts, with Tyler Boyd getting a late penalty for a Melville side that has conceded 18 goals this season.
Two goals from Burhan Ahmed helped Ngaruawahia United to a 3-1 home win over Lynn-Avon United, with LJ Pijnenberg adding the other to give the hosts a push up the Division One table, but Matamata Swifts were hammered 5-1 in Division Two to Waiuku, with Jack McNab scoring for Swifts.