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Winter heat

North Shore United 2, Melville United 1
Allen Hill Stadium, Auckland, May 19 2013

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Allen Hill Stadium holds a lot of fond memories for me of trials and tribulations of various Waikato sides dating back to the days of the old National League and Superclub competitions. I well recall top of the table clashes featuring players of all calibres, from the seriously ordinary right through to the great Wynton Rufer. I remember Chatham Cup ties and third division slogs. But for all the different Waikato sides I’ve watched in all those games, the likes of Waikato United, Ngaruawahia United, Matamata Swifts, and Hamilton Wanderers to name but a few – the one big constant is three time national champions and six time Chatham Cup winners North Shore United. They are true stalwarts of the New Zealand game and it was great to be back at their home today to see them take on yet another Waikato side, Melville United.

The other constant is how exciting and close these games so often are, and today was no exception. We had end to end action, shots ricocheting off cross-bars, sitters missed, flukey goals, excellent goals and plenty of skill on display.

Both sides enjoyed periods of dominance and the match ebbed and flowed continually with chances squandered at both ends, but it was North Shore who consistently enjoyed the best of them. Their reward came midway through the first half when they were awarded a penalty, for what I am not too sure… that they duly clinically converted via Jaryd Gray.

Not long after that the heavens opened big time and dumped a serious amount of rain on the pitch and provided some interesting goalmouth scrambles as the players must have struggled to establish where they were amongst the pea soup. Credit to the Allen Hill turf, that while it’s no longer by any stretch of the imagination the nine out of ten I gave it back in March, it certainly stood up to the downpour nicely.

The rain eased up in time for the break and ended up not having a material effect on proceedings with the score still delicately poised at 1-0.

The second half began broadly did the first with one North Shore shot in particular blasted over the top with the keeper already beaten – it seriously would have been infinitely harder to miss than to score but there it was. Melville capitalised this time though through a long range shot by Scott Hilliar that skidded along the deck and somehow found its way into the auld onion bag. From that point on the visitors gave every impression they would at least collect a point from their trip and perhaps more. They launched wave after wave of attack and even after North Shore retook the lead through a Ben Wall strike with about 15 minutes to go, it still seemed like just a matter of time before another Melville goal. It never came though and a nail biting match came to an end with one of the main contenders for that second promotion spot suffering a serious setback.

I understand Melville were forced to field an understrength line-up for this match, so they will still hold the belief they can make up the two points to second place, five adrift of runaway leaders Glenfield. But with Ngaruawahia and Takapuna now ahead of them and both playing great football, they’ll take some serious overhauling. North Shore too. Only two points behind the Hamiltonians, they’ll now fancy their double promotion credentials. As winter sets in, things are hotting up!

Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 1

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

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