Tauranga City are looking forward to getting back on home turf on Saturday to blow away memories of their last Northern Football League Division One outing in Auckland.
“It was the sort of day where if something was going to go wrong it did,” says coach Nic Millichip of his team’s 7-1 thrashing at the hands of North Shore United.
The absence of a number of key players, including midfield stalwart Sam O’Regan who has returned to his native UK for personal reasons, some questionable officiating, their own lack of discipline at crucial moments, and an avoidable red card, culminated in the result the team will want to put behind them in a hurry.
“Discipline wasn’t what it should have been in leaving officials alone,” says Nic. “So frustration built up. There were a few marginal offside calls, and a penalty given for a foul which we believed was outside the box.
“We need to be better than that. We’ve just got to just suck it up and get on.”
With two straight wins behind them going into the game and a strong opening it was a result no-one saw coming.
Holding their own in possession and creating a few half-chances, City were unlucky to find themselves two down after 26 minutes through a stunning freekick from outside the box, and a freak breakaway.
Going into the break two down and having dominated possession the team felt a comeback was within them.
Those thoughts took a battering in the 55th minute though when a tight offside call didn’t go their way, but some hope was restored on the hour when skipper Ray How found the back of the net with a strong header from a corner.
At 3-1 a result was still a chance, but that effectively ended when City’s Will Clague brought down a defender and a penalty was given.
He was adamant the foul was outside the box and made his point forcefully to the referee, who interpreted it as dissent and issued a straight red.
A further contentious penalty to the home side followed minutes later, then North Shore added two more in the dying moments as City decided on a nothing-to-lose approach and threw everything into attack, risking leaving themselves short at the back.
As the only player in the squad with national league experience Sam O’Regan’s departure is a loss for the team, Nic believes, and hurt them on the day.
“Sam’s been great this year. Great with the young guys. While he’s been here he’s been really positive.”
Nic says he emphasised to him how much the team needed his leadership qualities.
“Overall I thought he’d got into a much better space for the team and for himself. And helping to work with some of our younger guys because he does hold a bit of mana.”
Having debriefed the game with the team at Tuesday night training Nic believes they’re ready to turn it around and get back into the winning groove in their home fixture with Hibiscus Coast on Saturday.
“This weekend should be decent to be honest. There’s no reason why we couldn’t take something out of that. There’s only a point between us.”
Tauranga City sit ninth in the league having played 16 of their 22 games, one point and two places behind Saturday’s opposition.
A win could take them as high as seventh.
The match at Mt Maunganui’s Links Ave kicks off at 3pm.