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On the beach

Bucklands Beach AFC 1, Mount Albert Ponsonby 3
Rogers Park, Auckland, May 10 2014

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If you had told me before I set off for Bucklands Beach yesterday that I was heading to a thriller, I probably would have thought you were joking. The gulf between the levels that these two sides ply their respective trades at is quite large. Bucklands Beach AFC play in the seventh tier of New Zealand regional football, the Auckland Football Federation division 1, while MAP as they are affectionately known knock around the second tier – NRFL division 1. Such is the magic of the cup that you always expect upsets, but I doubt anyone picked this as one of the potential ones.

I sure didn’t. I chose this game for my round 1 Chatham Cup excursion because I decided to have a go at the old tradition of following a team until they get knocked out, then following whoever knocks them out, and so-on to the final. I was here for Bucklands Beach’s preliminary round clash, when they weren’t terribly impressive in dispatching Te Kuiti Albion, so here I was again although not exactly expecting a great deal of entertainment. In fact, on the way over when I found myself running what I thought was a bit late (as it turned out the kick-off had been postponed by half an hour so I wasn’t really late after all) and stuck behind some slow traffic, I was getting really agitated wondering how many goals I was missing in the opening ten minutes!

But how wrong I was! This was a classic cup ‘David meets Goliath’ clash and while the mere mortals didn’t quite manage to bring down the giants, they certainly succeeded in inflicting a bloody nose or two with a couple of well-aimed rocks.

During the opening stages it felt like one of those matches where the better side takes a while to find their shooting boots, but once they do opposition heads drop, the floodgates open and we end up with a cricket score. MAP were simply all over them but found it difficult to grab the advantage. They did manage an eventual breakthrough though, thanks to an excellently taken strike by the usually prolific Jared Colligan. At that point there was an air of “ok, well, here we go…” that drifted over the ground, but there must have been some sort of force field around the playing surface because it didn’t register with the home side!

They just kept on keeping on with their slightly hairy looking but just about effective enough defence frustrating the MAP attack more and more and the odd raid on the MAP final third when they could manage to release their nippy and able looking striker Gavin Mok… Most of the Bucklands Beach attacks seemed to get snuffed out easily enough, but as we all know it only takes one and sure enough they got one! A beautiful longish range effort from Mok found the back of the net and to my pleasant surprise Bucklands Beach went into the sheds at half time with the score at 1-1!

I still don’t think a single person there expected the score to still be 1-1 after 90 minutes. MAP were just too dominant, had too much possession and during the second half, pretty much spent the whole time using the Bucklands Beach net as target practice. The funny thing was though, they couldn’t hit it. They missed in just about every possible way imaginable. Off the posts, over the crossbar, across both faces, straight into the arms of the goalkeeper. It was almost comical, although the MAP strikers weren’t finding it too funny. As the number of squandered chances grew, tempers flared and Bucklands Beach confidence grew. With each goal kick he took, defender Yu-Ping Huang seem to add a couple of extra paces to his run-up to the point where he resembled Richard Hadlee pushing off the boundary fence during his early days. Before you knew it the 90 minutes were up and sure enough we were into extra time.

To be fair, I still didn’t think there was much danger of Bucklands Beach going through. If it had gone to penalties, it was hard to imagine more than one or two players from the home side being proficient from the spot. So they did need to find a winner somehow during regulation play. They gave it a good shot during the first fifteen minutes of extra time but in doing so left themselves a little exposed at the back until finally the pressure told and a last ditch tackle trying bravely to preserve the deadlock one last time resulted in the referee pointing at the spot. Jared Colligan made no mistake and that’s what it took in the end to effectively finish the brave team in yellow off. There was another goal in the final fifteen, a lovely drive from the top left corner of the penalty area by MAP substitute Robbie Robinson and that, almost disappointingly in the end I have to say (sucker for a good underdog that I am), was that.

Yet another lovely afternoon out in the dying embers of the summer sun. I look forward to seeing who MAP draws in the next round and subsequently cruising along to see how they go. But never mind that now, I gotta go! It’s Women’s Knockout Cup today and I’m off to see more cup magic!

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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