Papamoa continued their impressive start to the 2018 WaiBOP Premiership campaign with a 1-0 win over Matamata Swifts on Saturday.
It was an emotional day and a homecoming of sorts for Papamoa boss Duncan Lowry and coaches Andy Birchenough and Gary Darkes, who returned to Matamata Domain for the first time in a competitive capacity since their eight-year association with the club ended in 2012.
The narrow victory came courtesy of a close-range effort from midfielder Alex Wilson late in the first-half. But not for the first time this season, it was opposition’s goalkeeper that kept the scoreline respectable.
In perfect autumn conditions, and in front of a healthy contingent of Papamoa followers who had made their way over the Kaimai Ranges, the away side made one change, with new signing Dean Styles replacing the injured Phillip Fletcher in defence.
And it was the visitors’ now familiar 3-4-3 formation that did the trick once more.
Swifts stopper Kyle van Waveren made a string of eye-catching saves either side of the break to keep his team in the contest and, despite creating a number of chances to put the game to bed, Papamoa were pleased to head home with another win and their unbeaten record intact.
“We’re delighted with the three points,” says skipper Campbell Higgins after the game. “I’d say this has been our hardest test of the season so far.
“We can be proud of our attitude and determination throughout the game, and we’re obviously pleased to be top of the table after four games. It’s been a great start.”
"It was a day of mixed emotions coming back to Matamata, having spent eight very happy years with the club,” says Head Coach Duncan Lowry.
“I have to pay tribute to Swifts coach Scott Parsonage - both sides stuck to their brand of football and it was a good contest.
“I felt we always had the edge, and without the heroics of their goalkeeper the margin would have been much greater.
Lowry also singled out 17-year-old substitute Liam Molloy for praise, with the Bethlehem College student once again showing glimpses of promise during a late cameo appearance.
“It was nice to be able to give young Liam a run out for the last 15 minutes,” he says. “At just 17, he really has displayed talent beyond his years.”
Melville United stayed level on points with Papamoa at the top of the WaiBOP Premiership table after a 2-1 win over West Hamilton United.
Papamoa’s next game is an away clash with Waiuku on Saturday, May 12, in the Chatham Cup (2pm kick-off).
Papamoa FC (3-4-3): Ryan Foord; Dean Styles, Campbell Higgins (captain), James Davies; Dave Molloy, Top Khamwanthong, Fawwaz Ali, Alex Wilson; Andrew Cooper, Strauss Boom, Mitchell Hales. Subs: Matthew De Bono, Ashley Johnson, Liam Molloy, Phillip Fletcher.