Waikato FC in dogfight to avoid lonely last
Avoiding the wooden spoon is the last desperate goal for Waikato FC.
They went down 3-2 to Manawatu at Porritt Stadium in Hamilton yesterday and now share bottom spot in the ASB Premiership with the victors and Otago United.
Waikato have two matches left - away to title-chasing Auckland City this weekend and then at home to Otago.
A win over Otago would stave off the ignominy of finishing bottom, but that's no guarantee after a ragged performance yesterday ensured they still haven't won at home in two years.
After a lacklustre first-half display which left them trailing 2-1, the Mark Cossey-coached side should have gained all three points with a marginally better second half effort. But after levelling and looking the more likely winner, an offside flag and further shoddy defensive work proved their undoing.
Cossey made personnel changes in an attempt to halt a six-match losing run, but those alterations hindered the hosts. Without midfielders Eder Franchini and Jack Hobson-McVeigh, Waikato constantly lost possession and the service to frontmen Gurjeep Singh and Rory Turner was poor.
The problems weren't limited to that though, as the flat back four was regularly exposed by quick Manawatu striker Seule Soromon.
He opened the scoring with a header when left unmarked from a Dale Higham corner in the fifth minute but the hosts levelled three minutes later when Singh got in behind the defence down the left and his cross-cum-shot was bundled in from close range by Rory Turner.
But Soromon again exposed the Waikato defence 10 minutes later, bursting on to a through ball, rounding goalkeeper Jason Mann and coolly avoiding a lunge from David Parkinson before rolling the ball into the empty net.
Nine minutes into the second spell, with Franchini on as a sub, the same tactics paid dividends for Waikato when Hone Fowler's long ball eluded Manawatu for Singh to escape and finish past goalkeeper Matt Borren.
With 25 minutes remaining, Waikato were celebrating going ahead after Mark Jones tapped in following good work by Singh, only for the linesman to flag a debatable offside ruling in the buildup.
From there, either side could have taken three points, but the visitors nabbed them when poor defensive work allowed Sam Redwood to score from a corner with five minutes to play, and Borren ensured it was the winner when he pulled off a fine one-handed save from Raymond How in injury time.