Hawke's Bay United earned a scrappy 2-0 win over the Wellington Phoenix at Newtown Park on Saturday to move into second place in the ASB Premiership.
In a game that didn't reach the heights of the 5-5 draw that occurred the last time these two teams met, Sam Mason-Smith's bookend double - moving his tally for the season to six - secured Hawke’s Bay’s third win in four matches, moving his team eight points behind leaders Auckland City FC.
Hawke’s Bay United coach Brett Angell was pleased to earn the victory but the manner in which it was achieved needs work from his view.
"We came here to win the game and that’s what we’ve done," Angell said.
"I felt we were too quick to get ourselves in during the first half, we never really linked that well. Also I think we had a lot of opportunities where the final ball was lacking or players haven’t attacked the box to try and score goals.
"Overall, it’s great we’ve won the game but on reflection from a performance point of view we have played better this season."
Phoenix coach Andy Hedge felt his side tailed off in the second 45 minutes after a good start against a team in the thick of the playoff race.
"First half I thought we were really good," Hedge said, "in the second half were just weren't anywhere near as good as we should be.
"Hawke's Bay played very well in certain areas of the pitch. They bullied us a lot, which they will do against young kids. Their two strikers in particular were really strong in holding the ball up, linking play and bullying our young boys into submission really."
Mason-Smith opened the scoring in the sixth minute after being played into space, the Hawke's Bay striker used some fancy footwork to fool Lewis Italiano in goal, then tapped the ball into an open net.
Hawke's Bay were the better side for the remainder of the first half, but Logan Rogerson had a chance to send the home team into the break level. After being played in one-on-one, he successfully rounded Hill in goal, only to have his shot cleared off the line by Cory Chettleburgh.
The second half began in similar fashion to the first, with Hawke's Bay creating a chance in the first minute of the half through Hamish Watson, but his shot flashed across the face of goal and wide.
The remainder of the second half played out with very few goal scoring chances being created, as solid defensive work prevented the Phoenix from creating the chance for an equaliser.
Mason-Smith changed that in the 89th minute, as he shot from an acute angle, past Oliver Sail in goal and just inside the far post to confirm a much-needed three points for his team as they make their run towards the playoffs.
The ASB Premiership action continues on Sunday with Southern United hosting Team Wellington and WaiBOP United entertaining Canterbury United.
ASB Premiership 2015-16 - Round 11
Saturday 6 February
Wellington Phoenix 0-2 Hawke’s Bay United (half: 0-1)
HB: Sam Mason-Smith 6', 89’
Wellington Phoenix: 20. Lewis ITALIANO (GK - 30. Oliver SAIL 60'), 3. Justin GULLEY, 15. James McGARRY (35. Ruari CAHILL-FLEURY 46'), 24. Logan ROGERSON, 36. Liam WOOD, 37. Sam PHILIP, 39. Joe BELL, 41. Cherbel KHOUCHABA, 44. Louis EVANS, 46. Jack-Henry SINCLAIR, 47. Liam HARE
Substitutes not used: 31. Luke TONGUE, 38. Sam WILSON, 42. Nick LANE
Coach: Andy Hedge
Hawkes Bay United 1. Josh HILL (GK), 2. Sean LIDDICOAT, 3. Kohei MATSUMOTO, 4. Fin MILNE, 7. Cory CHETTLEBURG (19. Bihanu TAYE 86'), 10. Zane SOLE, 14. Paul IFILL (8. Tom BISS 57'), 15. Sam MASON-SMITH, 16. Hamish WATSON, 18. Martin CANALES, 21. Fabien Kurimati ()11. Khair JONES 69')
Substitutes not used: 5. Harrison NASH, 26. Kyle BAXTER
Coach: Brett Angell
Match report by Wellington Phoenix