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Old school

Papatoetoe AFC 0, Lynn Avon 3
Murdoch Park, Auckland, June 6 2015

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As I do my rounds of NRFL games, trying to cover as many different clubs as possible in the space of a season, it’s inevitable that there will be some serious sins of omission from time to time. One of the more glaring of those is the fact that, until today, I had never seen the Lynn Avon men’s team in action. It had also been far too long since I’ve watched a game at Murdoch Park – two years and ten months, to be precise, since my first and only other visit. It was therefore both long overdue and a real pleasure to turn up today and check these two sides out.

It’s surprising that I don’t come here more often really because I like the suburb of Papatoetoe, and Murdoch Park, quite a lot even if I wouldn’t go so far as to say I would like to live around there. It’s more that it’s a nostalgic window into a bygone era. Papatoetoe used to be one of Auckland’s more desirable areas, and its old school suburban streetscape features some lovely homes. But it hasn’t aged particularly well and Murdoch Park is a real microcosm of this. It’s an old style football ground that gives the impression of a place that hasn’t changed much in a long time but you can sort of tell that it was once the scene of some special moments in the history of our game.

Papatoetoe were in the National League for seven seasons in the 1980s and they finished runners up in 1984, albeit 14 points behind champions Gisborne City. They also won the Northern Premier League in 1991. But times have changed and, like the suburb they represent, the gloss has faded. They were relegated to Division 2 last season and now, coming into this game, they found themselves third from bottom and in a dog fight just to preserve their Northern League status. In this match they found themselves up against the bottom of the table team in Lynn Avon but, even so, watching the game if I hadn’t seen the table and you’d asked me who was rock bottom and who wasn’t I would have struggled to tell you.

Papatoetoe attained plenty of possession and maintained it well but they looked a bit ragged going forward apart from a couple of first half chances that stand out in my mind – one that rattled the upright and one free header that Lynn Avon keeper Cameron Illing was able to paw away without too much difficulty.

For the most part, the visitors just seemed to have things well under control. They were happy to sit back and keep their opponents at arm’s length. Then when the time came and they had chances of their own, they managed to dispatch them. Their three goals, the first half nod by Jarred Gearing and then a second half double for Matt Wildman, all came from set pieces and none of them would particularly be contenders for golazo status, but they got the job done and that was Lynn Avon in a nutshell.

The unfortunate talking point is doubtless the straight red card to Papatoetoe captain Gareth Vernon. I didn’t see what set him off but I did see him throw several punches at a Lynn Avon player. Needless to say that sort of thing is never very nice to witness. No doubt he will be missing from the South Auckland side for a few weeks.

So that was NRFL for me for another week! Back to the glitz and glamour of the FIFA Under 20 World Cup I go. Don’t tell anyone, but this is actually where I’d rather be.

And as for tomorrow morning – FORZA JUVE!!

Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 2

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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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