By Anendra Singh, Hawke's Bay Today
Blues midfielder Fahad Rwakarambwe tries to keep Lower Hutt City counterpart Guillaume Mouaha at Bay as Canadian import Oliver Coren watches at Marewa Park, Napier, today. PHOTO/Duncan Brown
Rain was always going to dictate play today but Napier City Rovers took matters into their own hands for an emphatic victory over Lower Hutt City in Napier today.
The resurgent Fergus Neil-captained Rovers thrashed a predominantly 10-men Canaries 5-1 after the Lotto Central League soccer match
The match, signalling the start of the second round, was shifted from a waterlogged Bluewater Stadium, Park Island, to nearby Marewa Park in the city. For the record, it'll help the Blues faithful to check with the club on Queen's Birthday Monday to find out if the Chatham Cup match against Wellington Olympic will still kick off at Park Island or be staged at Marewa Park.
The Conroy Removals-sponsored hosts opened their account, 1-0, in the ninth minute when Canadian import Jean-Michel Paulin paid dividends on Angus Kilkolly's hard yakka on the left flank.
Striker Kilkolly deceptively drew Jared Cunliff just past the halfway mark, then put his foot on the accelerator. He did that again with defender Tom Scott, lulling him into a false sense of comfort only to surge for the near upright before cutting the ball across the face of the goalmouth for Paulin to finish in line with the right upright.
But the game changed when referee Mark Rule, of Palmerston North, reached for his pocket in the 17th minute to reduce the Canaries to 10 men.
Keeper Kampman didn't have a leg to stand on after Kilkolly, latching on to a long ball from midfielder Ross Willox, made his trademark loping run towards the goalmouth. The keeper opted to run out of his box but couldn't stop the striker from weaving the ball past him despite the gloveman's sliding tackle to bring him down.
Lower Hutt pulled off Scott and injected defender Lewis Williams-Gray as their goalkeeper but Rovers had no joy from the ensuing free kick 21m out.
Paulin should have extended the lead in the 24th minute, about 3m in front of the left upright but his shot skewed into the net.
It wasn't until the 39th minute that the Blues extended the lead, 2-0, in bizarre fashion.
Veteran centre-mid Chris McIvor unleashed a slow motion-like header from an oblique angle from the right flank to catch replacement keeper Williams-Gray out of position.
As the ball dropped towards the top left-hand corner of the goalmouth, Lower Hutt defender James Marsh got his foot out to scoop it back into play but referee's assistant, Sean Hughes, had his flag up near the corner flag to indicate the ball had already gone over the line when Marsh reeled it back into play.
However, the Steve Coleman-coached visitors pulled one back, 2-1, a minute into referee's time from striker Jeremy Field after former Hawke's Bay United player Nathanael Hailemariam exchange passes with him to negate Charlie Yexley's efforts at rightback.
Blues goalkeeper Ruben Parker Hanks parried Hailemariam's shot at goal but as he lay on the ground after losing control of the ball on a slipper patch, Field followed up, chipping the ball over him and into the net for a halftime break.
Coach Bill Robertson's men carried on their merry way when Kilkolly scored in the 51st minute, 3-1, in almost similar fashion to how he created opportunities in the first half.
This time, though, Kilkolly took a shot from inside the box on the right flank as keeper Williams-Gray half-heartedly put one hand up as the ball rocketed past him into the net with a thud.
Lower Hutt came close to pulling another goal back though Cunliff in the 76th minute but it was Kilkolly who scored at the other end the next minute, 4-1.
As casually as they came, it was Kilkolly again in the 86th minute, turning the ball around a couple of defenders to drill it to the bottom right-hand corner for a 5-1 result and his hattrick.
That put Kilkolly on 20 league goals at the halfway mark of the season. According to Rovers club members, former Rovers striker Gary Parker, now living in Melbourne, holds the league record of 37 goals set in 1986. It didn't include Chatham Cup goals.
The game came to an abrupt halt a minute before the fulltime whistle when Kilkolly and Lower Hutt midfielder Guillaume Mouaha had a sickening leg clash, both left writhing on the ground before the visiting player was helped off the park.
The end couldn't come soon enough for the gallant visitors who soldiered for most of the game but it appeared as if a mercy rule should have been enforced to put them out of their misery.
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