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Guest Post – Cup catch-up: Part 1

North Shore United 1, Hamilton Wanderers 3
Allen Hill Stadium, Auckland, June 29 2014

[At the start of Chatham Cup season 2014, I resolved to follow the winner of each tie I attended right through to the final. After attending the preliminary round fixture that saw Bucklands Beach defeat Te Kuiti Albion, I watched Mount Albert Ponsonby defeat Bucklands Beach, then North Shore defeat Mount Albert Ponsonby. Then things came unstuck. Shore were to face Mangere United in the next round but that was postponed due to a protest which ultimately saw Mangere disqualified in favour of the team they had knocked out, Hamilton Wanderers. Frustratingly, the rescheduled rounds of 32 and 16 matches were allocated dates and times which made it impossible for me to attend either of them. But every cloud has a silver lining! Because Wanderers stalwart Rod de Lisle has very kindly agreed to allow me to publish his excellent write-ups of these two exciting games, which I will post today and tomorrow in a two-part thriller! Thanks also to Garry Konings for the photos. SPOILER ALERT: I will pick up my Chatham Cup odyssey once again when Wanderers meet Central United in the quarter finals.]

Photo by Garry Konings

Photo by Garry Konings

By Rod de Lisle

I’ve been to the home of New Zealand’s oldest football club three times and in three capacities in my life. Once as a young fella I went to watch and cheer on North Shore in the home leg of a Chatham Cup final vs Mount Maunganui. They lost that game but won the away leg to clinch the cup on aggregate. I then played there some years later, on my 30th birthday, against Adrian Elrick and a few other ex All whites as they spanked our University team 3-0. And this week I returned as manager (read dogsbody) of Hamilton Wanderers in another Chatham Cup game.

Allen Hill stadium doesn’t look too flash nowadays. The stands are rusty and falling down, there are piles of timber and rubbish around the changing rooms and the place generally has a Dickensian feel to it. The pitch has also seen better days: as threadbare in places as the spot in the office where I grovel to my boss about pay-rises.

But despite the ravages of time, North Shore United had to be respected in the cup, not only for their tremendous history but, as we know at Wanderers, teams from lower divisions are capable of upsets on any given day.

A coach from the third tier, Mark O’Donnell, was there to scope the game and offered his prescient view of the likely outcome. 3-1 he said, with the confidence of Paul the octopus, before the kickoff.

The first decent chance fell to Jarrod Young who forced the home keeper into a fine save. The blue machine pushed forward and another attack saw a Shore defender diveheader the ball away from the goal line. But in a moment of uncertainty for Wanderers, Shore broke through the middle and a fine shot gave them a 1-0 lead and sent the home fans into delirium as they savoured the prospect of an upset. The cheers and yelps in the ancient stand threatened to topple it in the excitement of the moment.

The home balloon of confidence popped soon after when Sunni Singh outstripped the defence and was bundled over in the penalty box. Despite the protestation of the Shore faithful the young ref astutely pointed to the spot and Mark Jones sent the keeper the wrong way to level the scores.

Early in the second half Wanderers turned the screws and Young was unlucky not to score when he chased down a loose ball; his shot hit post and keeper but just about managed to stay out. Then Xavier Pratt effort soared over the bar to the dismay of the blue bench. Pratt made amends soon after when he knocked a long ball from the left to Jones on the right who smartly volleyed it home. Wanderers were in the lead for the first time in 180 minutes of cup competition this season.

North Shore battled back and scored a goal but the assistant ref had already spotted the offside, waggling his colourful flag vigorously.

Then Singh escaped his marker and shot narrowly wide. The locals breathed a sigh of relief. Not for long though. Wanderers sealed the win when Jones, as fast as a electric eel, intercepted a Shore pass and sped toward goal. Singh was also on hand but Jones slashed the shot into the onion bag to seal his hat trick and make it 10 goals for the season.

“Who doesn’t enjoy a threesome?” Jones said (or words that effect) later. He added modestly “Not quite sure how it happened. I had less involvement than normal in this game.”

The Wanderers boys had enjoyed a far better second half and in midfield, as well as Jones, Ricky Broderson and Alexi Varela all had strong games. There could have been another goal if the ref had not resisted the strong appeal for a penalty in the latter stages. But in the cup, the final score doesn’t really matter as long as the result goes your way.

In the clubrooms, amid dusty furniture and faded sepia memories of the grand past, the hosts were genially gracious in defeat. A reminder of the days when our sport was a whole lot less about winning and more about the beautiful game. O’Donnell the octopus, accepted a free beer and proffered his prediction for our next cup encounter. I’d tell you, but who needs to hear the ramblings of a deluded person?

Categories: NZ Chatham Cup

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Enzo Giordani

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: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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