Glenfield Rovers 2, Hamilton Wanderers 1
McFetridge Park, Auckland, April 4 2014
It’s week two of the Northern Regional Football League and now we’ve got ourselves a party! The men’s and women’s premier leagues are up and running with their first rounds being played today and tomorrow. Now don’t get me wrong, I love all the divisions, but this season’s top flights are going to be great sources of interest this year. On the men’s side, we’ve got a competition that a large number of teams are capable of winning. East Coast Bays – last season’s champions. Birkenhead United – last season’s runners up. Hamilton Wanderers – contenders last season who have added to their squad. Three Kings United – rumour has it likely to be much improved and they weren’t far off last season. And newly promoted Glenfield Rovers – huge movers in the offseason snagging some talent from their nearest neighbours Birko as well as enticing Auckland City’s Chris Bale away from Kiwitea Street which is quite the coup.
Two of those contenders went head to head at McFetridge Park today and with one of them being a Glenfield outfit that has got everyone, myself included, talking and curious to find out more, and the other a Wanderers side that constitutes the top hope from my beloved Waikato region, there were no prizes for guessing where I’d be spending my Saturday afternoon. And was it ever the right call. A fantastic game of football for at least the first fifty minutes was enjoyed by a healthy crowd enjoying the brilliant sunshine of summer’s last flourish, either on the deck with a cold chardonnay or on the grass bank under the dappled shade of the Pohutokawa trees.
Glenfield started off with a hiss and a roar firing several shots around a slightly nervous looking Wanderers defence, one of which should really have gone in. Michael Gwyther had the keeper already beaten and with an empty net beckoning he blasted up into the underside of the crossbar. It bounced down outside the goal line and away to safety. That scare seemed to buck Wanderers’ ideas up and from that point on they grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, dominating the midfield and grabbing the lion’s share of possession. They lacked a bit of oomph in the final third though until their toil was eventually rewarded just before half time when Mark Jones cut through the Rovers defence and made it a deserved 1-0 to the visitors at the break with a well taken finish.
The turning point in the game came five minutes into the second half when Thomas Crawford brought a Rovers player down in the penalty area, costing his side a penalty and earning himself an early shower courtesy of a straight red. Looked fair enough to me… But sadly that was effectively the end of the game as an interesting contest. Gwyther duly slotted the spot kick and from that point on it was only really a matter of time before Glenfield snaffled the other two points on offer.
Things had been a bit niggly up until that point with three yellow cards having already been dished out in addition to the red, but from this point on niggle turned to outright hostility in a few instances with five more cautions being necessary and both sides lucky not to see more ejections. This didn’t stop Gwyther grabbing the last word however with a 61st minute winner nicely taken via a dinky little chippy sort of blast after battling through some persistent Wanderers defence.
Once that job was done, the game fizzled out a bit with Wanderers looking fairly well done, and Rovers lacking much interest in adding a greater margin to their victory. Strange considering last season’s title was decided by goal difference.
The verdict on Rovers? They might have gone on to win against an eleven man Wanderers unit but I doubt it. But regardless, a solid performance at home. Plenty of room for improvement, but they have the personnel to do it and then some so my feeling is while they may well be the real deal, there are still some unanswered questions. They have a fairly straightforward trip to Waitakere City next week and then the big test comes with a home derby against their arch enemies Birkenhead. We’ll find out much more then!
Categories: NZ Northern Men's Premier
A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: http://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/