Waikato FC 0, Canterbury United 5
Centennial Park, Ngaruawahia, November 25 2012
It’s great to see Waikato FC making use of Centennial Park in the small North Waikato town of Ngaruawahia. A little piece of colonialism in a place famous for being the home of Maori royalty, Ngaruawahia United Football Club seems an odd fit for the area. But as one of the region’s most successful football clubs, it’s appropriate that our National League makes at least one stop here per summer. In an ideal world this little gem would be even more regularly utilised than it is. The playing surface is like finest Axminster and the absence of the dreaded athletics track makes this a far more pleasurable place to watch the beautiful game than Waikato’s more regular home of Porritt Stadium. Waikato FC did spend an entire season here a few years back when the franchise was in dire financial trouble and it was thought Ngaruawahia’s closer proximity to Auckland would make it conducive to luring young talent from the big smoke. It’s unfortunate that when that strategy was discontinued, the other virtues of the place don’t appear to have been as well considered by the powers that be.
Speaking of missed opportunities, despite the scoreline suggesting otherwise, that’s exactly what this game was for Waikato FC. They weren’t exactly setting the world on fire in the first half but they were never the less looking pretty good when juxtaposed with a frustrated Canterbury United side who were very sloppy at the back, giving the ball away in their own half left, right and centre. Waikato’s attack wasn’t looking that sharp either though and despite commanding the lion’s share of possession, they found themselves behind against the run of play thanks to Canterbury’s Russell Kamo nodding one home from a rare corner in the 18th minute. It didn’t take long for Waikato’s golden chance to hit back through a penalty awarded in their favour, but unfortunately the end result of that was this:
So the two sides went into the break with the score stubbornly stuck at 0-1 but after half time, Canterbury managed to overcome their sloppy start and seize control of the game. It all started going pear shaped for the home side early on in the half when Mike Kramer fouled a Canterbury player inside the penalty box, earning a second yellow and seeing Waikato down to ten. Aaron Clapham calmly slotted the resulting penalty low and right with the keeper safely dispatched left.
Despite that major setback, Waikato bravely fought on, pressing hard and managing a couple of nice shots on goal that frustratingly bore no fruit. Then as so often happens when a team chases a goal hard, they had their spirits destroyed by a Darren white counter attack. In a 1 on 1 situation, he calmly chipped the keeper to seal the three points for the visitors. The wheels then fell off the Waikato bus as they appeared to give up the ghost and it became a simple question of by how much they would be creamed by.
I still maintain though that they weren’t that bad. If that first half penalty had gone in, they wouldn’t have felt the need to chase the game and the second half might have followed a very different script. We’ll never know of course and the body language of the respective sides after the game was telling. While Canterbury were in a tight huddle with the coach congratulating them on a job well done, Waikato were spread out all over the place with Declan Edge wandering around looking somewhat shell-shocked. I wonder if he has lost some of his notorious confidence, or the confidence of the players. Either way they need to pick themselves up and pull themselves together quick smart for a tricky yet realistically winnable trip to Youngheart Manawatu next week that they will need to get something from if they hope to lift themselves off the bottom of the table. As a Waikato fan myself, here’s hoping.
Categories: NZ Men's National League
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.