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Do you believe in miracles?

Melville United 2, Glenfield Rovers 2
Gower Park, Hamilton, August 8 2015

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One of the great things our game has given to the sporting world is the league system that sees teams promoted to and relegated from various divisions from year to year. Its virtue is it creates interest for the neutral at both ends of the table so every last game counts right up to the end of the season. For fans of clubs that find themselves caught up in relegation battles however, it feels like whoever came up with this diabolical form of torture was one sick bastard indeed.

Months of brutal torment end in either great heartbreak or unbridled joy and you often don’t know which until the very last moments of the very last game. It’s an emotional rollercoaster like no other. There are few worse experiences for a fan than seeing their club relegated but likewise there is no sense of relief quite like that which comes from your team pulling off a miracle escape after all hope seemed lost.

It’s a miracle of this kind of magnitude that Melville United are praying for now, only one season after their long awaited promotion back into the Northern Premier League. Escapes of the nature required here have been done before many times, but the odds are heavily stacked against Melville. Two wins in a row against quality opposition in their last two outings have given everyone hope but by golly they keep doing it the hard way with late, late comebacks! What it must be like to follow them every week… I’m not sure my heart could cope.

In their last two games they managed to get six of the nine points they had earned up until this point and against key opposition – first the closest team above them in Bay Olympic and second against East Coast Bays. So hope lives.

Yesterday’s visitors to the Tron, Glenfield Rovers, also need a miracle. Last year’s champions, they probably needed to win all the rest of their games to have a chance of retaining their crown but with some important players out of action hope was fading fast for them too. The match was played in less than ideal conditions with hail – no, I’m not joking, hail – as well as good old fashioned Hamilton pea soup making the Gower Park pitch rather perilous.

I thought Melville played the bulk of the football in the early exchanges with Glenfield’s attacking opportunities mostly consisting of set pieces. But slowly, as the half wore on, the worm turned and by the twenty fifth minute mark, Glenfield were looking the more dangerous of the two. It was no surprise therefore, when the visitors took the lead although the nature of it was a bit disappointing from a Waikato perspective.

The Melville back four had done well to scramble away previous more compelling threats and Jason Mann had managed a couple of good saves. But all that work was undone when they let it slip in a scrappy goalmouth melee where nobody managed to tidy up and Cris Carpenter was able to bludgeon home a somewhat unattractive goal.

Glenfield’s second came in first half stoppage time and prompted some protest from the Melville defence who thought Sam Howell received the ball in an offside position. The scoreboard said 2-0 to Glenfield at half time though.

Melville came out of the gate with the necessary intent in the second half but lacked in the final flourish. Glenfield keeper Sean Dowling was called on to earn his keep on one or two occasions and did so with aplomb early in the half but was almost caught out around about the hour mark when a pass intended for one of his defenders instead found its way to a Melville attacking player with an open goal in front of him. Luckily for the visitors the shot took too long to come, allowing a defender to come flying in and make a beautiful last ditch tackle to save the day. It was at this point that it seemed it was destined not be Melville’s day.

But about five minutes later came the breakthrough when Jacob Robb fired the home side back into the match. This triggered even more pressure from Melville as they frantically searched for their third comeback in three games. It almost cost them a couple of times as Glenfield broke on the counter and came close to putting the game beyond doubt. But minutes from the end Melville managed to complete their comeback as the ball fell to Dan Finlay who buried his chance and sent ripples of relief through the home fans even if it had come too late for there to be a realistic chance of their side grabbing all three points.

After all that, Glenfield still have a mathematical chance of winning the league but today’s result made that a very slim prospect indeed. Melville’s point was not the three they really needed but with the Hamiltonians nine points off safety with two games in hand and eighteen points still up for grabs, who knows, the miracle could still be on the cards.

They are performing great escapes in all their games in recent times, so why not in their season too?

Categories: NZ Northern Men's Premier

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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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