Meadowbank United’s season ended with a 3-1 defeat to Northern Hearts at the Oamaru Showgrounds on Saturday to finish fifth on the points table.
Despite having already secured the title, with a near-perfect season of 12 wins from 13 matches, Hearts brought a full-strength squad to Oamaru.
Meadowbank coach Simon Willetts had tailored his side to a 4-5-1 formation, with the intention of starving the champions of possession in midfield and utilising his wingers, and for much of the contest, this conservative approach paid off.
Bank didn’t look like the same side that were thumped 8-0 by Hearts in week two as they maintained possession well, but couldn’t prevent Ant Hancock from beating stand-in goal keeper Mike Seddon 20 minutes into the first half.
Matt Haywood quickly replied for the home side with a calmly taken effort on the edge of the six-yard box to level proceedings.
Both sides created chances, with the wood work coming to Hearts’ aid on several occasions, but the visitors broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time through Craig Mackie for a 2-1 lead at the break.
Hearts put the tie out of reach in the second half after Todd Burtenshaw was awarded a penalty from Jacob Willetts’ challenge. Burtenshaw calmly converted to maintain his side’s unbeaten season.
Bank manager Phil Collings praised his players’ efforts against tough competition and said they would now look ahead to cup football.
“Hearts have been unbeaten. They’d won the competition already, but they still brought a strong side,” he said.
“We took it to them. They didn’t have as much possession as they’d have liked, make no mistake, they’re unbeaten and a very good side but if you starve them of possession and close them down in midfield, they’re vulnerable.
“I think coming from an 8-0 drubbing, the guys did really well.”
Meadowbank will be in action next weekend in the South Canterbury Cup against West End B, while the reserves take on Timaru City B. Both sides will play in Timaru.
By JAMES FORD
PHOTO: JAMES FORD – Michael Stevens outpaces his marker at the Showgrounds but fired his effort wide.