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A 3-3 victory

Warkworth 3, Manukau City 3
Shoesmith Reserve, Warkworth, July 13 2013

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I finally bowed to pressure today and headed up to Shoesmith Reserve for a NRFL game, and it turned out to be a masterstroke. There are games that you desperately want to spare yourself the agony of by leaving early, and there are other games that you wish would never end. This was very much the latter. I would have given anything for it to be a cup match – another 30 minutes was the least it deserved and like a really good book, the ending left me yearning to know more. Shove your happily ever after, dammit, I want to know who wins!

I don’t know why I haven’t made this trip sooner. It’s got so much going for it. By taking the scenic route North via Helensville I was able to meander my way along the majestic Kaipara Harbour before cutting inland to Warkworth. Once there, if you have planned ahead to make a day of it by arriving early, you can head out to the famous Matakana Farmers Market where homemade bread, olive oil and mustard are always high on my list of priority acquisitions. Then, once you have enjoyed a breakfast of polenta, blue cheese, stewed apple and cream sitting by the river and listening to the jazz band, there’s an extensive selection of high quality vineyards in the area to tour around, sampling their wares. If none of that puts you in the mood for enjoying football, I don’t know what will.

Once at the game, you might expect a bit of a contrast from the rest of your day, particularly when you are watching a bottom of Division 2 visiting side taking on a lower mid-table home side. But you’d be very wrong! This was one of the most exciting games I’ve seen all year. While Warkworth were playing some good solid football and were probably for the most part the more quality outfit, you can never underestimate a side fighting for their lives in a relegation fight and Manukau City lived up to their reputation as hardy battlers.

It was the visitors who opened the scoring about 20 minutes in. A Michael Day free kick found its way to Federico Cranca who showed excellent strength to fight off his marker and get a shot away that found its way past Warkworth Keeper Simon Borich’s outstretched hand. Warkworth found the equaliser 15 minutes later though, through Jamie McGookin, and took the lead shortly after that via Leigh Draper to take a 2-1 advantage into the break. It could even have been a bigger mountain to climb for the visitors as Warkworth had some great chances snuffed out by desperate Manukau defence. One goalmouth scramble in the first half and a header off the line by a defender in the second particularly stand out. When Rob Carty drove in a lovely second half shot that dipped beautifully under the crossbar from outside the penalty area, it looked as though Warkworth were going to run away with an easy win, but ever plucky Manukau City had other ideas.

They never stopped fighting and once Cranca doubled his tally to give the visitors a lifeline with 20 odd minutes remaining, a turning point in the game had arrived. He almost had his hat-trick very shortly after his second but the home side was saved by the post. To be fair, the rest of the match was end to end action, but while either side could have scored, Manukau had all the momentum. After the 90 minutes had ticked over and just when it was looking as though Warkworth would hold on, deep in injury time a Manukau City corner was bludgeoned towards goal, saved by Borich but only cleared as far as Michael Day whose header sparked off Manukau celebrations as they earned the magical point that clearly meant so much to them.

After the match I had a quick chat to Manukau coach Mark Day, who was chomping at the bit to get away and celebrate with his boys, but still gave me a few comments on the win and his side’s prospects of avoiding the drop:

Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 2

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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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