Waking to the sound of the ocean attempting an airdrop invasion of the isthmus, the prospect of a journey up to Glenfield Rovers at McFetridge Park looked, if not grim, then suspiciously soggy. Full credit then to the staff and drainage at Rovers as their pitch did not seem to have suffered from the mornings torrential downpour. That’s more than can be said for Kiwitea St, where a localised tornado has ripped both roof and back off their covered stand.
Calm was needed, and was provided by the return of ‘The Godfather’, New Zealand’s most capped international, Ivan Vicelich. Central’s fluid attacking style is much to be admired, with good reason, but a little nous and experience is needed to anchor any team. While swallows swooped low across the pitch and looped their way between the clusters of players, it was the combination of Berlanga, Iwata and Lausev down the Central left that provided the first goal. An arcing cross from Iwata was met with precision by the onrushing Finn Cochran putting his team a goal up within the first fifteen minutes of the match.
Glenfield were missing ten players from their overall squad today, a fact noted glumly in the programme. The eleven on the pitch, though, were conspicuous in their efforts with the yellow and black jerseys buzzing around the red shirts of Central. Unfortunately their efforts to establish a rhythm to their passing was thwarted by the Sandringham team’s second goal. The impressive Iwata took a shot from range which took at least two deflections, the last one thumping the ball emphatically into the roof of the net to the horror of the Glenfield defender.
The first half played out in much the same way. Glenfield retained possession in their defensive third but moves often broke down as opportunities to switch play across the field were considered but then lost by the movement of Central. This was summed up by a fantastic defensive challenge late on in the half by a Rovers player, whose name escapes me. Unfortunately his well timed tackle was upon Angel Berlanga in the Central penalty area. Two untaken chances characterised the cruising Central; the first a leisurely and languid long shot from Vicelich which floated wide. The second drew pained gasps from the new terraced seats as Pineau, through on goal, tapped the ball just a little too far into the favour of home keeper Ellensohn.
Half Time – 0 – 2
There’s a certain level of robustness needed when, with a depleted squad, you find yourself two nil down against a team just below you in the table. And in the opening exchanges of the second half Glenfield Rovers showed the sort of qualities which surely contributed towards their coronation as league champions last year. To the vociferous enthusiastic delight of keeper Dave Ellensohn, they pulled a goal back shortly after the break. Neat passing down the right wing and a sumptuous cross into the box provided a clear yet challenging opportunity for Matt Wallace that Danyon Drake could not deny.
Having pulled back a goal, momentum began to swing Glenfield’s way with their industry in midfield neutralising the metronomic influence of Vicelich and the all action energy of Iwata. However Central manager Jose Figuera was to rebalance the game in his favour with a substitution. Introducing Zambrano up front, the forward’s first touch was a neat pass to Iwata whose turn and twist across the edge of the eighteen yard box was finished with a curving shot inside the right hand post. Unlike his earlier ping ponged effort, this one was undeniably his.
Glenfield played the second half with much more verve and energy and it was clear that their organisation in midfield and defence were very effective in preventing the visitors from completing their triangles of passing movement. This also provided them with a decent base for attack but unfortunately they lacked that final incisiveness despite building pressure well in the latter half of the game. That’s not to say there wasn’t action, with Zambrano pinging the outside of the post and Glenfield attempting some wayward shots from distance.
As the light faded and indications of the storm that was to come appeared on the horizon, it was Glenfield who finished the game strongest. A last minute raid against the Central defence drew a fantastic reflex save from Danyon Drake, seconds before the final whistle blew.
The top of the Lotto NRFL table is becoming increasingly tight and while Glenfield Rovers went down by a two goal margin today, the potential return of their absentees should ensure they remain in the running to defend their title. However with a game against Eastern Suburbs a McFetridge Park next weekend, they’ll be hoping for swift returns from their returnees.
For Central, a local derby away at Three Kings next week should provide ample time for someone to fish the various sheets of corrugated metal which pinwheeled across Sandringham this morning.
MOTM: Takuya Iwata. At one point appeared to be playing left back, left wing, right wing and centre forward in one continuous blur.
Categories: NZ Northern Men's Premier
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.