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Manukau City 3, Glen Eden 4
Walter Massey Park, Auckland, June 28 2014

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It might have been Chatham Cup day in Auckland again yesterday, but there was only one tie on offer and it wasn’t really my scene. I’m sure Central vs Glenfield was a great game with a decent crowd in attendance, but the prospect was all a bit too glamorous for me with its covered stand, its paving, and its steak sandwiches. Give me a bare patch of ankle-deep mud and two lowly teams slugging it out any day! And besides, I’m having a bit of a sulk about my plan, to follow the team that wins each Chatham Cup tie I attend, turning to custard. Trust me to strike the one tie that got postponed due to a team getting disqualified.

North Shore’s originally drawn round of 32 fixture (everyone else is playing round of 16 games this weekend) against Mangere United was eventually rescheduled for today vs Hamilton Wanderers (the side that Mangere was deemed to have fielded an ineligible player against). Unfortunately those two sides won’t be graced with my presence because I’m writing this from a delightful Café in Hamilton East (Grey Street Kitchen – Chorizo sausages are da bomb) while I await the Claudelands Rovers vs Forrest Hill Milford quarter final in the Women’s Knockout Cup. Call me a feminazi but I’m following the same system with both cups and when faced with a straight choice between prioritising women and men, the women win. Why? 2,000 years of male domination, that’s why. That, and the ladies were organised weeks ago, so it would be wrong to ditch them just because the blokes have finally sorted their shit out at the last minute. So there. Rant over.

So as a result of all that, when I looked at the fixture list yesterday, one game stood out. Manukau City vs Glen Eden in the AFF/NFF Conference saw two clubs pitted against each other who I am interested in but haven’t seen for a while.

Manukau have been favs of mine since I saw them win a penalty shootout that earned them an unlikely Chatham Cup quarter final in Dunedin a couple of years ago. Since then they have found themselves sadly relegated from the Northern League. Glen Eden used to be my local club, and they have come a very long way since I watched their over 35s represent them in the Chatham Cup just last year!

So I wanted to see how both these sides are getting along this season. And the answer came through loud and clear – quite well thanks very much!

Both are top half of the Conference and in a season when two sides get promoted to NRFL Division 2, either could find themselves back in the Northern League before they know it. Manukau’s points tally says they are the more likely of the two by virtue of their current second place standing, however Glen Eden certainly made a statement about that in this game. Having said that though, it was mostly Manukau City’s own character that was their undoing…

The black and whites were all over their Westy visitors for most of the match, but particularly in the first half. It was totally against the run of play when a Glen Eden free kick from well outside the penalty area looped over the keeper’s head and gave the team in blue an unlikely 1-0 advantage. It didn’t last long though as Manukau hit back relatively quickly to restore the equilibrium. Then in fairly short order again, Manukau should have taken the lead when they were awarded a penalty for hand ball, but Tadeu Castro’s spot kick found the keeper’s ankle and ricocheted away to safety. Castro then made up for this somewhat when, unmarked, he drove a lovely shot in from relatively long range, then struck again right on the stroke of half time to take the score to 3-1 at the break in Manukau City’s favour.

There should have been no way back for Glen Eden at that point but sloppy defending saw them pull one back about five minutes into the second half. I still thought Manukau was the most likely side to take all the points though as they seemed to be keeping their plucky opponents at arm’s length for the most part. That was, until the second half was drawing towards its conclusion and at that point the wheels… not so much fell off as spontaneously combusted. Tempers were starting to fray a little bit as Manukau City players felt hard done by from one or two of the ref’s calls. There were a few tanties, warnings issued, then after a free kick was awarded in favour of the home side, one player still wasn’t happy and, from what I could tell from where I was sitting, managed to somehow talk himself into a red card. Didn’t see if it was a second yellow or straight red but it was just as dumb regardless.

With their foes down to ten men and obviously flustered, Glen Eden pounced. One and then two goals turned the game on its head and Manukau were done – a very important three points thrown away that could very well cost them a return to the leagues that everyone wants to be in. They are still five points clear of third, but this is still a real setback and will give their competitors for promotion, not least Glen Eden, a real light at the end of the tunnel towards catching them (and possibly a glimpse of their Achilles heel…).

Buckle your seatbelts! This promotion race could well go down to the wire. I am looking forward to picking it up again soon.

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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