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The Delayed Escape

Going to watch Melville means goals, at the moment. The reversal of Three Kings’ fortunes has galvanised the Hamilton side with recent wins over East Coast Bays and Western Springs, as well as a creditable draw against Glenfield Rovers, each game having a minimum of four goals. Against teams higher in the table, though, they’ve struggled. But struggled doesn’t really capture it. Any team putting three past Central United, albeit conceding five, is one worth watching.

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Waikaraka Park huddles under the power lines at the heart of the Onehunga industrial area. Warning signs and metal fences surround the walls of the playing pitches, foretelling their imminent collapse. The pitches were busy with youth team games before kick-off and there was the treat of the balcony, overlooking the main pitch. As instructed, after a goalkeeper identification fiasco last week, I collared the ref and asked for a snap of the team sheets. I managed a nice clear shot of the Onehunga Sports side, and completely fouled up the Melville United one. Ominous, as it turned out.

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The first half wasn’t scrappy, or particularly one sided. Onehunga’s Adidas kit gave them the air of Germany away, as did their industry in midfield. Melville looked like a team who recognised another season of top flight football was within their reach. Andrew Milne, for Onehunga, was a familiar face for this Auckland City supporter and made his presence felt in the traditional Milne style, with some emphatic challenges.

The biggest thud of the first half occurred when Dan Finlay, for Melville, lost possession to Kyosuke Kitano in the Onehunga half. Kitano went on a lung-busting run down the left wing, bringing spectators on the balcony to the rail. Finlay had matched him though and made up for handing the ball the opposition with a shuddering challenge. Ouch. Legitimate though, according the ref, but Kitano was forced off later in the half to sit outside the dressing room with his ankle strapped up.

Chances for both sides were limited to some inventive takes on the dink from outside the area. At times it seemed like both teams had the ability to score, but lacked the inclination to do so. Jason Mann in goal for Melville had the air of a terminally disappointed Sergeant-Major, with a voice to match. And unfortunately the opening goal came after a mix-up between Mann and his defence. A skimming ball managed to ping-pong between the ‘keeper and a defender, who tried in vain to divert it from dribbling desperately over the line.

Half time: Onehunga Sports 1 – 0 Melville United.

Choosing to watch the second half at ground level was always going to bring the game to life. Both teams took the pitch with a greater pace and urgency and eventually the twenty-two point gap between the sides showed. Sean Lovemore, Onehunga’s top scorer, helped himself to a neat finish thanks to another moment of hesitancy in the Melville defence. Suddenly three points seemed out of reach, but a side with their recent goalscoring record could never be written off.

Well, right up until Lovemore scored again, stroking the ball past the despairing keeper. Melville didn’t give up and Marc Evans, whose diligent work up front epitomised his team’s approach to the game, placed a lovely curving shot bringing the deficit back to two. In fact, Melville spent a lot of the second half getting themselves into a position where they looked certain to score, before being crowded out or just failing to take that chance that seemed obvious to the spectators. That said, it’s always easy to play the game with a beer in your hand from the sidelines.

Goal of the day went to Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, who was called into the All Whites squad this weekend. A 25 yard free kick dipped, bounced and evaded Jason Mann, prompting ruefulness from the scorer as his team-mates celebrated with him. Onehunga spent the second half with a much more fluid approach, getting most of their joy from down the left hand side. It seemed that Andrew Milne was teed up four or five times in exactly the same place, for exactly the same kind of volley. He only scored one of them, mind, to the amusement of the Melville supporter next to me. You’ve got to laugh, when you’re 5 – 1 down.

Immediately prior to the final whistle Melville had the ball in the net again, but the linesmans flag was raised. They remain seven points clear of Three Kings United, with three games left to play against league winners Eastern Suburbs and fellow Waikato side, Hamilton Wanderers. The Great Escape has been delayed another week, but it’s still all in their hands.

Full Time: Onehunga Sports 5 – 1 Melville United


Tried out a new form of match report yesterday, with Half Time and Full Time updates on SoundCloud uploaded to social media. Apologies to Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, whose excellent strike I wrong awarded to Sean Cooper in my full time report. It was a cracking goal.

Half Time Report:

Full Time Report:

Categories: NZ Northern Men's Premier

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John Palethorpe

John Palethorpe lives in South Auckland which is very far away from Fratton Park and Champion Hill. Having been told there was no football in New Zealand, he was delighted to find that there is.

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