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The end of the odyssey

Glenfield Rovers 3, Forrest Hill Milford 2
Cashmere Technical 2, Central United 1
QBE (North Harbour) Stadium, Auckland, September 7 2014

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Cup Final Day! This season I took up a challenge to follow both of New Zealand’s national cup competitions by spending every round watching the winner of the previous game I attended from the preliminary rounds right through to the end. This meant that for the Women’s Knockout Cup, my road to the final was as follows:

Round 1: Norwest United 7, Hibiscus Coast 0, Huapai Domain, May 11
Round 2: Claudelands Rovers 9, Norwest United 1, Galloway Park, May 25
Quarter Final: Claudelands Rovers 2, Forrest Hill Milford 3, Galloway Park, June 29
Semi Final: Forrest Hill Milford 2, Coastal Spirit 1, Becroft Park, July 20

And my road to the Chatham Cup final was:

Preliminary Round: Bucklands Beach AFC 4, Te Kuiti Albion 2, Rogers Park, April 21
Round 1: Bucklands Beach AFC 1, Mount Albert Ponsonby 3, Rogers Park, May 10
Round 2: Mount Albert Ponsonby 0, North Shore United 2, Anderson Park, June 2
Round 3: North Shore United 1, Hamilton Wanderers 3, Allen Hill Stadium, June 29
Round 4: Bay Olympic 2, Hamilton Wanderers 3, Olympic Park, Auckland, July 5
Quarter Final: Central United 2, Hamilton Wanderers 0, Kiwitea Street, July 27
Semi Final: Central United 2, Napier City Rovers 0, Kiwitea Street, August 17

This culminated in today’s double header on a beautiful sunny Auckland day. In terms of the women, we were treated to an incredible local derby between a virtual New Zealand Under 20 team in FHM and a Glenfield Rovers side containing both age-group and full internationals. On the men’s side we had a virtual tussle between Auckland City FC and Canterbury United with many ASB Premiership players playing their winter football for these two clubs. Auckland’s Central last won the Cup in 2012, while Christchurch’s Cashmere were the reigning champions looking to go back-to-back.

Both games more than lived up to the pre-match anticipation, delivering absolute crackers!

Glenfield were nothing short of heroic against their, let’s face it, significantly more fancied opponents. There is an old saying that you have to lose a final before you can win one and I would bet my life that Rovers were drawing heavily on the painful memory of their loss this time last year at the hands of Coastal Spirit for inspiration today. They really lifted.

I was running a little bit late and was outside the stadium waiting to get in as the first two goals were scored in the first ten minutes or so of the game. I heard the roar of the crowd both times and assumed that FHM were on their way to racking up a cricket score! I had to rub my eyes and look again when I got my first glimpse of the scoreboard because after Emma Rolston had opened the scoring for FHM, Katie Rood had hit straight back. Then to add to the intrigue Rood struck again shortly before the half hour mark to make it 2-1 to Rovers at the break.

The two sides traded blows somewhat in the second half, even if FHM didn’t quite look their usual ruthless selves. Rovers just kept on slugging and eventually broke through again via Katie Jackson to make it 3-1, only for Rolston to grab her second to take us right back to one goal in it.

FHM fought hard until the end, forcing Erin Naylor to pull off some great saves as the swans threw the kitchen sink at trying to find the equaliser but Rovers were never going to let their chance slip away for the second year in a row. They held on and earned their great victory to cap off an amazing year for that club.

As for the blokes, well their game wasn’t half bad either! These were two quality sides, and even though the Northern League table doesn’t really reflect it, they are arguably the best two club teams operating on these shores. Particularly Cashmere, who really ooze class with Aaron Clapham in particular standing out as a very good operator and in my opinion one of the best players in the country. They thoroughly deserved their victory today, even if their first goal was a bit soft. It came only four minutes into the match after some uncharacteristically poor defence from Central in the penalty area saw Ash Wellbourn add his name to the scoresheet.

The Aucklanders were very quick to restore the equilibrium. Only ten minutes after Tech’s goal, Emiliano Tade wove some solo magic as he jinked and jived his way through the Cashmere defence like it was an afternoon stroll, then made no mistake with a silky finish to level the scores. Cashmere’s second then came just before the break with a Dan Terris header off a Clapham corner. The half time score was also the full time score, largely thanks to some excellent defensive work by the Cashmere back four. It was a heroic display to keep Tade and company at bay as the team in yellow showed great determination to find the breakthrough that would have sent us to extra time. Despite a few hairy moments, Cashmere survived and became the first team to win two in a row since Central did it 16 years ago.

I’m looking forward to next year already. Not least because I think I’ll go back to choosing each game on its merits… This has been fun but there were a few pangs of regret when there were other games pulling on the emotional heartstrings at various times of the year. It has to be said that the undoubted highlight of the year was meeting Maureen Burnside at MAP, something that might never have happened if it wasn’t for this Odyssey! So it was worth doing, and it’s something everyone should do once, but as for right now, all I have left to say is…… I’m FREEEEEEEE!!!!! 🙂

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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