The Wellington Phoenix reserves have been punished for not making the most of their goal scoring opportunities in their National League Championship season opener.
The Phoenix reserves have been beaten 1-0 by Napier City Rovers at Bluewater Stadium in Napier, despite the visitors having the best of the chances.
Young substitute Sam Lack was the match-winner for Rovers, scoring the only goal of the game in the 73rd minute.
The young Nix were boosted by first team players Ben Old and Alex Paulsen, who started for the reserves in order to get some game time before next week’s A-League season opener at Sky Stadium.
Old was prominent throughout the 90 minutes and created a number of goal scoring opportunities, while Paulsen was rarely tested in goal, but was unable to deny Lack.
Lukas Kelly-Heald, Isaac Hughes, Dan McKay, Noah Karunaratne, Charlie Beale and Marco Lorenz also started for the reserves, just days after returning from the Oceania U-19 Men’s Championship in Tahiti, while fellow Junior All White Sebastian Barton-Ginger was amongst the substitutes.
Striker Riley Bidois had the best of their first half chances. He skied an inch-perfect Old cross high and wide of Napier City’s goal and was unable to direct a near post header on target after being picked out by right back Matthew Sheridan.
Old continued to be at the heart of the reserves’ best moments in the second half and came close to turning provider in the 47th minute. He delivered a fantastic ball into the box, finding Lukas Kelly-Heald, but the left back was unable to beat Oscar Mason in Rovers’ goal.
The Phoenix attacking midfielder took on Napier City almost single-handedly midway through the second half, beating three or four players before unleashing a shot that, unfortunately for the young Nix, narrowly missed the target.
Moments later Lack burst into the reserves’ box and squeezed a left-footed shot past Paulsen to put Rovers in front.
Substitutes Kaelin Nguyen and Ben Wallace came closest to drawing the Phoenix reserves level in the closing stages.
Nguyen was unable to beat Mason from six yards out in the 87th minute and in the final minute of the 90 Wallace smashed a shot against the crossbar.
Wellington Phoenix reserves: 1. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 4. Lukas KELLY-HEALD, 5. Isaac HUGHES (c), 6. Dan MCKAY, 7. Noah KARUNARATNE (18. Ben WALLACE 83rd), 8. Ben OLD, 9. Riley BIDOIS, 10. Charlie BEALE (17. Sebastian BARTON-GINGER 75th), 13. Matthew SHERIDAN, 14. Joshua TOLLERVEY (11. Kaelin NGUYEN 75th), 15. Marco LORENZ.
Unused substitutes: 20. Callum KENNETT (gk), 2. Joseph CHIARI.
Napier City Rovers: 21. Oscar MASON, 3. Liam SCHOFIELD, 4. Kaeden ATKINS, 5. Fetuao BELCHER (19. Andrew ABBA 46th), 6. Sho GOTO, 7. Ta Eh DOE, 9. Cameron EMERSON (12. Sam LACK 64th), 13. Leaford ALLEN (18. Harry MASON 88th), 15. James HOYLE, 17. Fergus NEIL, 20. Christian LEOPARD.
Unused substitutes: 1. Kyle BAXTER, 14. Jimmy SOMERTON.
12. Sam LACK (Napier City Rovers) – 72nd
14. Joshua TOLLERVEY (Wellington Phoenix reserves) – yellow – 37th
12. Sam LACK (Napier City Rovers) – yellow – 90th