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Party poopers

Bohemian Celtic 3, Waitemata AFC 1
Bill McKinlay Park, Auckland, August 17 2013

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The theory: If I play my cards right, I can time my football viewing over the next few weeks so that I can cover all the victory celebrations and trophy presentations in all the various divisions of the higher echelons of Northern football. The practice: Life doesn’t usually work out so clean and perfect. I thought today I might be able to see the Auckland/Northern Conference decided, and hence one of the two playoff finalists found who will do battle for a place in next season’s NRFL. What I didn’t count on was a very nervous looking league leader in Waitemata doing their best to choke hard, combined with a fourth placed Bohemian Celtic in good form and determined to spoil the party for their West Auckland opposition.

Waitemata only needed a draw from yesterday’s final match on their calendar to seal the title and the opportunity for promotion to the highest level their club has ever played at in their 54 year history. The loss means they now have to anxiously wait for last season’s relegated team from NRFL Division 2, Papakura, to play their final game against 6th placed West Auckland AFC. A 2 goal victory for Kura would see them keep their chances of bouncing straight back up alive, thanks to goal difference.

Bohemian Celtic are a very interesting club that I would love to know more about. Founded in 1995, they are a nomadic bunch whose website says they are based in the Central Auckland suburbs of Mount Albert, Kingsland and Mount Albert, but their current home ground is Bill McKinlay Park way out East in Panmure. Their lack of a home ground of their own means that following their recent run of winning the Auckland Sunday Football Association league five out of the last six years, they were finally admitted to the Conference for the first time, but as ‘Unimount’. University Mount Wellington, once one of the most glamorous names in New Zealand domestic football with numerous leagues and cups to their name, now have this as the highest level their club operates at, which makes this a fascinating marriage of convenience!

Whatever your view is of all of that, one thing’s for certain – Bohemian Celtic is a very ambitious club with serious Northern League ambitions and if their debut season in the conference is anything to go by, it’s just a matter of time until they achieve higher honours. Their late run of form could have seen them challenge for the title if only one or two more earlier results had gone their way. They certainly put next year’s teams on notice by picking the league pole sitters apart piece by piece yesterday, albeit helped somewhat by some decidedly dodgy defending.

Right from the outset, Waitemata looked pretty nervous at the back, gifting their opponents clear cut gilt edged opportunities to score that fortunately for the visitors weren’t converted. They had their fair share of possession and created the odd chance, but their modus operandi looked fairly blunt as they tried to bludgeon their way into the opposition half. The weather conditions were nothing short of terrible – cold, wet, windy and miserable – which would have contributed to the quality of the game, which was at times a fairly brutal slugfest with a lot of referee intervention with numerous free kicks and more yellow cards than you could shake a stick at as the referee struggled to keep control of the match in difficult circumstances.

Nevertheless it was Waitemata who made the first breakthrough with a quality header off a corner just before half time. But their relief was very short lived – just after the break we were back on level terms when the visitors earned a much deserved equaliser. In a game like this it’s always a bit of a lottery to see which side will get a player booked twice first and on this occasion it was Bohemian Celtic, with about 15 minutes still to play. The second half well and truly belonged to them regardless though. Fortunately for them they were able to capitalise on more Waitemata defensive lapses, most notably a free kick that went through the wall, though the keeper’s hands, and then through the keeper’s legs to trickle across the line. Then again, with the keeper drawn well off his line, a lovely chip to finish the game off strongly despite only having 10 men on the pitch.

At the full time whistle the team in white and green were jubilant, almost as though it was them who were within touching distance of promotion. They know that they’ll be back stronger for their experience, and in my opinion, the extra season at this level will stand them in good stead when they do eventually achieve promotion. Can the same be said for Waitemata?

I did do a post-match interview with the coach of Bohemian Celtic but unfortunately the wind was blowing into the microphone and when I got home I discovered that the whole thing is inaudible. My apologies for falling into that trap for young players…

Categories: NZ AFF/NFF Men's Conference

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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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