23 Feb 2009

Bannatyne scores rare goal for Wellington

5:35 am on 23 February 2009

A freak goal from goalkeeper James Bannatyne has helped Wellington take the New Zealand Football Championship playoff race to the wire with a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Canterbury in the capital yesterday.

With just one match of league play remaining, Wellington moved to 20 points with the victory, jumping from sixth to fourth, two points behind Auckland and Manawatu who played out a goalless draw on Saturday.

Hawke's Bay and Waikato FC - who both had a week off - are poised on 19 points but need victory next weekend and losses to rivals elsewhere to creep into the semi-finals.

While five teams are fighting over three remaining spots, runaway leaders Waitakere United are the only side assured of semi-final football, and the Minor Premiers moved 10 points clear at the top of the table with a dramatic 3-2 win over nine-man Otago in Dunedin.

Former All White goalkeeper James Bannatyne launched a free-kick into Canterbury's penalty area from 15 metres inside his own half and the ball narrowly eluded everyone,

including his opposite number to wrap up all three points.

The final round of league action next Sunday is headlined by Wellington's showdown against Waikato while Manawatu could need a point from their match against Waitakere in Palmerston North to secure their position.

Auckland are at home to Canterbury with the chance to confirm second spot while Hawke's Bay must break their poor home form to earn their first playoff appearance when Otago visit Park Island.