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Hibiscus Coast 1, Melville United 2
Stanmore Bay Park, Auckland, August 9 2014

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I wasn’t going to go to any football on Saturday due to other commitments, but at exactly 2pm (45 minutes before NRFL kick-off time) and after a hard morning putting up election hoardings, my afternoon commitments fell through so I was left with a choice – go to bed for a well-earned afternoon nap or go to some football. What would you do? The choice was easy. Go to bed.

But after five minutes or so trying to catch a bit of shut-eye, I realised it wasn’t going to happen. Football was calling me. So up I hopped and headed out to the game I had previously thought I might go to if the opportunity arose – Hibiscus Coast vs Melville.

Why this game? For no better reason than because it’s been a while since I last watched Melville play, which is a pity because they are a team I always feel a strong affinity for given their heritage as the successor club to Waikato United, and the fact that I spent a large chunk of my childhood on Alison Street where they reside in the Tron. This was also yet another chance to test the theory that has reared its ugly head again recently, that I am a jinx! After admitting that I had never seen a Waikato team win at Kiwitea Street it was suggested that my well known record of causing Waikato summer league teams to lose whenever I watch them play is probably true in the winter too. But to my delight, that theory was blown out of the water on Saturday!

The simplest explanation for the difference between these two teams, aside from me being there as a lucky charm for Melville, was that the ‘pride of the Waikato’ took their chances and Hibiscus Coast didn’t. Jason Mann was a large part of the reason the Hamiltonians came away with all three points. He pulled off some stunning saves in the Melville goal to deny a good many sharp looking Hibiscus Coast attacks in the first half in particular, some of them in one-on-one situations. Securing his services from his beloved Papatoetoe at the start of the season was a real coup and appears to have turned out to be a very smart move to boot.

Granted, my last minute procrastination meant I missed the first fifteen minutes but from what I saw of the first half it was Hibiscus Coast doing most of the attacking, but as mentioned above they failed to convert chances into a lead. This was punished reasonably late in the opening stanza by a well taken Andrew Husband goal buried in the top left corner of the net from around about the penalty spot leaving the keeper with no chance. 1-0 was the score at the break.

The first part of the second half started off with the same script as the first, Hibiscus Coast attacking but lacking in the final flourish only to see a goal at the other end. This time the punishment was dished out via a Leon Newell goal that I can’t tell you too much about because I was too busy checking my Twitter mentions. Ahem… I hear it was a nice one.

After that, Hibiscus Coast seemed a little bit like they had had the stuffing knocked out of them for a while, as you would, but that didn’t stop them finally managing to get one past Mann after the Melville keeper failed to deal with a corner that then found its way into the path of Tom Dale who made no mistake. This set up a great finish where the possibility of a famous Melville capitulation was still on the cards. It never came however, and they held their nerve to close out the game.

For the coasters, it wasn’t the end of the match that cost them so much as the fact that they really should have been defending a three goal lead from the start.

Melville’s reward for victory was a jocular mid-winter dip in the Pacific Ocean. With the air temperature around about a chilly 10 degrees or less I’d wager, I’d hate to think how cold the water was (I wasn’t willing to dip so much as a pinky in to find out) and I’d hate even more to see what they would have had to do if they’d lost!

And after snapping some paparazzi shots of Melville swimming in their underwear, there was still time for one last nice surprise – meeting Coast player Zane Olla and his dad Stefano in the car park, who turned out to be massive Roma fans! I had to get a photo as clearly with taste like that and being an obvious beneficiary of such a fine upbringing, young Zane has a very bright future in the game! Remember that face. I almost regretted my quiet support of Melville after meeting those two. Oh well, there’s always next time.

Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 1

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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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