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Three times a charm

Onehunga Mangere United 0, Ngaruawahia United 2
Mangere Domain, Auckland, June 16 2013

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I’ve often lamented the poor state of Waikato football on this bandwidth, but not today! Because today, three of the four Northern League clubs from the land of the mighty Waikato entered the last 32 of the Chatham Cup, and today, all three survived and will feature in the last 16 – they tell me that’s a record, and who am I to argue?!?!

Of the three games, Melville made the toughest work of their gentlish draw – they required extra time to complete their come from behind victory against Papatoetoe. At the other end of the spectrum, the premier division’s Hamilton Wanderers made light work of division 2 leaders Mangere United, running away 5-0 winners. And sandwiched in between the two, was the green machine that is Ngaruawahia United. It wasn’t what you would call a comprehensive victory up on the mountain, but it was a competent, workmanlike performance from Ngara that was more than enough to advance. It was a fairly typical arm-wrestle like cup clash, nothing too spectacular but a good, tight, interesting battle.

What the game lacked in spectacular football though, it more than made up for in spectacular views. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you can’t beat Mangere Mountain as the most picturesque football ground in the Northern League. With panoramic views of the Manukau Harbour and South Auckland suburbs, as well as a working farm complete with green pastures dotted with dairy cows. It’s a unique Auckland football experience not to be missed.

As for the game, Onehunga Mangere started reasonably brightly, but it didn’t take long to settle down, and for the gap in class between the top halves of divisions 1 and 2 to begin to show itself, as Ngaruawahia slowly managed to work their way on top. Their toil was rewarded about 25 minutes in when a barrage of shots resulted in a goal clubbed in by Tim Kautai. When Federico Marquez slotted home to double Ngara’s lead about quarter of an hour later and five minutes shy of the half time break, it felt as though the floodgates might have been about to open.

But to the home side’s credit that was the last time in the game that Ngaruawahia would trouble the score sheet, and instead it was the mountain men who were the most likely of the two to do so from that point onwards. They came out after the break looking a much improved unit and had several great chances to get runs on the board. One goal and they would have been right in the contest with momentum on their side, but unfortunately for them they couldn’t quite find that all important finishing touch. Take nothing away from Ngaruawahia though, they defended bravely with clearances off the line and excellent saves from the keeper to thoroughly earn their advancement and a complete a great set of results for Waikato football.

Now that there is every chance there will be at least one side from Moolooland in the quarter finals, when the competition goes national, I’m already starting to think about a nice wee trip to watch one of them if they find themselves playing somewhere South of Lake Taupo.

As for Onehunga Mangere, well there is always the old clichéd consolation everyone who gets knocked out of a cup is invited to take solace in – at least they can now focus on the league. After the game today I had a quick chat with their coach, Mark O’Donnell, who was philosophical about the result and despite the setback, very proud of his side’s season to date.

Categories: NZ Chatham Cup

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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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