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The last quarter

Eastern Suburbs 2, Western Springs 3 AET
Madills Farm, Auckland, August 2 2015

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I must be slipping. Two humdingers that went right down to the wire in two days! Where did that come from? Usually I end up attracted, like a moth to a flame, to lop-sided contests that leave me struggling to find a positive spin to put on them when it comes time to do my write-up. Not this weekend! After Saturday’s seven goal thriller in Warkworth, yesterday saw me attend a New Zealand Women’s Knockout Cup quarter-final that took all of 120 minutes to find an opponent for Glenfield Rovers to entertain at McFetridge Park on the 22nd of August.

Even before this match turned out to be a classic on the pitch, there was already some curiosity for the neutral observer off it. This was of course provided by the return to Madills Farm of what is, for all intents and purposes, the Eastern Suburbs side of last season, and the title winning side of the season before, to their old stomping ground under a new banner.  It must have been a little weird for Rico Wilson and his team to use the visitors’ changing room here given they celebrated much success in the one right next door.

It might also have been a little bit awkward for the Eastern Suburbs faithful to welcome back so many of the players, and the coach, they so recently said goodbye to. There must have been a desire on both sides to show that certain decisions were justified. And if there were points to prove, it certainly didn’t hurt the quality of the encounter!

The other juxtaposition here was youth vs experience. When Rico Wilson left Suburbs for Springs he took a lot of experienced players with him. Paul Marshall has replaced them with a very young side predominantly of school age women who make up what they might lack in guile with raw talent and energy assisted by Marshall’s very… how can I put it… commanding(?) style. The result of all this was a fascinating contrast and obviously a great game of football.

This was one of those games that, like a good arm-wrestle, seesawed backwards and forwards as both sides enjoyed spells of applying pressure on their opponents. Suburbs had the momentum to begin with but despite having an early penalty shout waved away it was their opponents who managed to draw first blood when a pass was intercepted by Lauren Mathis who made no mistake with only the keeper to beat.

But undeterred, Suburbs pushed on and they were rewarded for their perseverance right before half time when referee Johanna O’Connor pointed to the spot for a tackle that looked ok from where I was sitting – but do bear in mind I was sitting right down the other end so was really in no position to judge. Either way, Grace Jale slotted the penalty and 1-1 was the score at the break.

The game continued to ebb and flow in the second half with first Springs and then Suburbs enjoying spells of dominance as shots ricocheted off goalkeepers, defenders and crossbars alike as the match progressed. It wasn’t until we were inside the final ten minutes before someone finally seized the advantage on the scoreboard though. That someone was Deven Jackson, on behalf of the young charges of Marshall, who fired the home side into the lead.

But that lead was destined to be short lived. A Rebecca O’Neill goal from close range levelled things up again in the ninetieth minute and after only two minutes of time added on we were off to extra time!

Now the momentum was back with Springs and it only took five minutes of the first half of extra time for the winning goal to be found via another penalty. This time awarded to Springs for a tackle on Mathis that some suggested happened outside the penalty area. I was closer to this one but with the Madills Farm turf having seen better days and me sitting quite low I once again need to place myself firmly and unequivocally on the fence!

As with the last one, and every other spot kick that’s ever been awarded in the history of the game, if you are ever in doubt as to whether it was a penalty or not – all you have to do is look at the scoreboard! After O’Neill buried this one it read Eastern Suburbs 2, Western Springs 3. Despite the home side giving their all in trying to force a shootout, and Springs creating a few chances of their own to extend their hard won advantage, 2-3 was the final score.

So in the war between the young and free vs the mature and wily, the more experienced heads claimed this battle. Just. Speaking on behalf of the age group I am closest to here – phew!

Categories: NZ Women's KO 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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