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Gower Power

Melville United 5, Glenfield Rovers 2
Gower Park, Hamilton, July 20 2013

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I have a little list. A list of all the Northern Regional Football League grounds I haven’t covered a game at in the last two years, that I’m hoping to work my way through by the end of the season. It’s not a long list, but there are some glaring oversights on it and Gower Park was one of them. There’s no excuse really. It’s one of the nicest places to watch football in the upper North Island and it’s only a few doors down from my grandmother’s house, so I am in the neighbourhood visiting occasionally. Even though I basically grew up just up the road, the last time I set foot on the park was to play cricket with my friends when I was in my mid-teens some 20 years ago.

It has come a long way since those days when it was just an open space with a toilet block. The only change I had previously noticed while driving past intermittently over the past couple of decades is a Pittosporum hedge that started with a few miserable looking plants dotted around and slowly grew to block your view from the street, like a chrysalis masking the real transformation occurring inside.

When I turned up yesterday to watch the home team take on top of the table Glenfield Rovers, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that once through the gates, the set-up now boasts a nice cosy clubroom, bleachers and railings, and a great little club atmosphere. They haven’t spent a fortune on turning it into a quality football ground, but the money they have invested has paid dividends.

Off and on through those past few years, Melville have produced football that has somewhat matched their facilities at various moments. Like their fledgling hedge, their initial growth as a club post-merger with Waikato United yielded little refuge from the overall decline New Zealand football was experiencing at the time. Their only trophy since then so far has been the Northern Premier title in 2009, although they have also played in the 2003 Chatham Cup final and have off and on been there or there abouts in the Northern League. It all came unravelled a wee bit last season though, when they unfortunately found themselves relegated to division 1.

The quest to bounce straight back up has not been a straightforward one, having lost a number of players who followed former coach Declan Edge to the Ole Academy in Wellington. They started the 2013 season poorly as a result, their young side battling for consistency. However it felt like a turning point was perhaps reached when they took care of business at Madill’s Farm last week against Eastern Suburbs, the only team to have defeated Glenfield until yesterday.

That was, until the visitors started brightly today and scored very early on to send ripples of “oh crap, here we go again…” reverberating through the ground. But from that moment forward, Melville seized control of the match and never let it go. The Rovers goal seemed to wake United right up and they looked instantly dangerous. The Glenfield keeper initially produced a couple of nice one-on-one saves to maintain his side’s lead, but he couldn’t keep them out forever, Melville finally finding the breakthrough via a lovely semi-long range blast. Far from being satisfied with returning the game to level terms, the home side kept pushing. The pressure told five minutes or so out from the break when two went in in quick succession. Their 3-1 lead at half time was well earned. If anything, they could have had a couple more, such was their dominance.

After the break, Glenfield looked to have changed a couple of things up and looked much more dangerous, enjoying a bit of time in the opposition half and exerting a bit of pressure of their own. Their final execution looked a bit off though. Even their goal that briefly brought the score back to 3-2 was a corner that looked like it had drifted in, not sure if anyone got a touch on it or not. It looked pretty soft either way. Melville’s goals on the other hand were all quality, and just as it was looking like we might have been heading for a grandstand finish, before we knew it, it was 4-2 and then 5-2. A clinical victory seized by a team that never really looked like taking their foot off their opponent’s throats.

Melville now only sit three points shy of that all-important second promotion place, and who knows, they also find themselves only four points away from their first trophy since 2009, in a league that Glenfield were previously tipped by most to run away with in a canter. Not to mention their Chatham Cup quarter final next weekend. We are in for a fascinating run home.

After the match I chatted to Melville coach Steve Williams, who is still taking things one game at a time.

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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