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Birnie double frustrates table-toppers Waitakere

Waitakere United increased its lead at the top of the New Zealand Football Championship despite an upset draw as Hawke’s Bay United snatched a dramatic 2-2 draw in Napier on Sunday.

Hawke's Bay United forward Leon Birnie. Image: Photosport

December 20, 2009

AUCKLAND - Waitakere United increased its lead at the top of the New Zealand Football Championship despite an upset draw as Hawke’s Bay United snatched a dramatic 2-2 draw in Napier on Sunday.

Leon Birnie was the hero for the home side, converting a penalty in the 11th minute and scoring a 63rd minute header to complete a sensational comeback after Allan Pearce and Neil Sykes first half goals gave the visitors a 2-1 lead at halftime.

Auckland City and YoungHeart Manawatu now trail Waitakere by three points but have games in hand - Auckland with two and Manawatu one. Both clubs remain in second and third place respectively with 10 points, just two ahead of a resurgent Canterbury United. A win for Waitakere United would have opened up a five point lead in the race for the NZFC minor premiership.

Canterbury United closed the gap on top spot to five points with a resounding 3-1 derby win over rivals Otago United at Carisbrook while in the capital, the ten men of Team Wellington snatched a dramatic 2-1 win over Waikato FC to move up to sixth on 6 points.

Goals arrived in a flurry at all three venues with nine of the eleven goals scored this weekend all arrived in a busy first half for matches throughout the country.

Canterbury United proved their one week rest had no adverse affect on their preparation as they ran away with the points in Dunedin, with Russell Kamo opening the scoring in the 19th minute against Otago. Tom Lancaster increased the visitors lead in the 31st minute only for Dan Ede to pull one back for Otago within sixty seconds of the restart. Kamo's second goal restored Canterbury’s two goal lead three minutes before the break and completed a comfortable victory.

Wellington’s victory over Waikato FC was built on a second half rearguard action after Adam Birch was sent off in the 38th minute. Roddy Brown earlier gave Wellington the ideal start after his shot went in off the crossbar in the 21st minute. The visitors restored parity when Dan Peat scored from the penalty spot after Birch brought down Joey Simpkins with Birch shown a straight red card by the referee for the foul. Team Wellington substitute Trent Watson took the game firmly away from the visitors when he scored the winner with an 80th minute header.

The next scheduled round of NZFC matches takes place on Saturday 9 January, 2010 when YoungHeart Manawatu entertains Otago United at Memorial Park. Three matches are scheduled for Sunday 10 January, 2010, as Canterbury United welcome Team Wellington in a match crucial to both team’s playoff hopes. Auckland City returns to Kiwitea Street as they host Hawke’s Bay United. Waitakere get another chance to stay top of the table in the weekend’s other fixture with a visit to Ngaruawahia to take on Waikato FC.

Details of the rescheduled NZFC fixture between Auckland City and YoungHeart Manawatu have yet to be determined

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