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The Fred

Waitakere United 2, WaiBOP United 1
Fred Taylor Park, Auckland, February 21 2015

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Ask any WaiBOP United fan which ASB Premiership venue they prefer to visit the least, and odds overwhelmingly are they will tell you it’s Fred Taylor Park. Why? To be completely honest I don’t entirely understand it myself.

The reasons you hear tend to range from it’s not developed enough, there is no atmosphere, there are no fans, right through to a litany of bad results achieved there by Waikato and Bay of Plenty teams over the years. A fairly representative example of that last complaint is Melville United Chairman Bruce Holloway proclaiming in a Chatham Cup match day programme a couple of years ago that Waitakere City ‘ruined his life’ in the same way that Manchester United ruined Colin Shindler’s.

But it’s not that bad is it, the Fred?

It probably helps my perception of the place that the West is my chosen home. I live in the Waitakere Ranges, five minutes’ drive away from Fred Taylor Park, because it reminds me of my Waikato upbringing. The open spaces, rolling countryside, rural atmosphere, the tuis, the flaxes, the trees… When I look at Fred Taylor Park, I don’t see an under developed football ground. I see a place that is reflective and illustrative of the area that its tenants represent. Right down to the architecture of the clubrooms and the water tanks alongside – this is West Auckland and I love it.

As for results, as a fan of all things Waikato football, the history is certainly something of a train wreck… But hey, isn’t that a lot of places? Personally I have experienced just as much if not more pain and misery in Sandringham. I guess the difference is you expect to get done over at Kiwitea Street. You draw comfort from the surety of getting smashed by Auckland City or Central United. Whereas so often we come to Fred Taylor with somewhat higher expectations. Today was no different.

Sitting fourth equal going into the game, this result was pivotal for WaiBOP United’s semi-final hopes. A win combined with a relatively soft run home should have seen them in an unfamiliar position of the box seat for a playoff place. That made this quite possibly the most important game for a Waikato FC or WaiBOP United side since year one when they made their one and only semi-final appearance eleven years ago.

Their opponents are a shadow of their former selves. Gone are the days when this competition was a two Auckland horse race. WaiBOP team and fans alike should rightly have expected the three points in this game to have been right there for the taking, and they were.

They started off dominantly, and their lead, seized in the 14th minute courtesy of former Waitakere player Chad Coombes, was no surprise whatsoever. It was built on a real foundation of pressure and a solid chunk of Waitakere inaccuracy that created some of that pressure. But it was some even more sloppy defending that undid all that hard work just 9 minutes later when Dylan Manickum got in behind the WaiBOP defence, drew Danyon Drake off his line, and presented Tom Biss with an easy finish.

From that point on it turned into an even and at times quite open contest but, as the second half wore on, WaiBOP slowly worked themselves back into the sort of dominance that they had exhibited early in the match. It got to the stage right near the end where they were peppering the Waitakere goal. However a combination of wasteful finishing and top drawer saves from one of New Zealand’s best keepers in Danny Robinson, meant they couldn’t find the breakthrough they needed.

It all came down to mental toughness. Who knows how to win? Who backs themselves to never lose their nerve? Who could reach out and take what they knew in their hearts to be rightfully theirs? That’s where, in the past, Waitakere United have always had the edge over Waikato and WaiBOP. In that top two inches of real estate in their noggins.

And so it was, in the 4th minute of referee’s time added on at the end of the 90, Derice Richards did exactly what Waitakere United does.

And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is why everyone hates Fred Taylor Park!

Categories: NZ Men's National League

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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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