Driving out to Henderson, the clouds over the Waitakeres were ominous. I’d forgotten my coat, lulled into a false sense of security by the bright sky which had followed the morning’s deluge. The last cup final I went to was the 2008 FA Cup at Wembley. It cost me an eye-watering amount of money. But today I would get not one, but two, cup finals for the princely sum of $10. Bargain? Given that a coke and burger at Wembley cost north of $15, settling in at the Trusts Arena with a deceptively hot pie and some coffee, I’d say definitely.
The athletics track which loops around the cambered pitch placed a certain amount of distance between the game and the spectators. It’s a little bugbear of mine, but when there’s a lack of suitably sized grounds for the occasion you make what you’ve got work. The crowd numbered in the hundreds just before kickoff, but this expanded over the afternoon.
I haven’t paid as much attention to the Womens League as Enzo does. I watched parts of the Womens World Cup in Canada, as much as you can do when you don’t have Sky. But this was the first time, that I can actually remember, that I’d watched a game live. Massey University came into the final having featured in every single round of the competition, defending holders Glenfield Rovers has come in at Round 2.
Neither team seemed overawed by the occasion, with Massey’s neat passing bringing them down the wings during the early exchanges but not taking them much further. Glenfield made incursions, but lacked a real cutting edge. Evenly balanced, as I messaged to my wife.
The breakthrough came relatively early on, less than a quarter hour in. It was also to set the tone for Glenfield’s goals that day. An inswinging corner from Harrison did exactly what the description says and swung in, evading everyone apart from the welcoming net. Their second came minutes before half-time, from another corner, this time van Noorden heading in. There was also time for a third, after a Hallford swept home a ball spilled by the Massey keeper.
This description is unfair on Massey who retained possession for significant periods of the game. They could not manage to breach the staunch defence of Glenfield, although all of their approach play was dynamic and at times Rovers seemed unable to match them in midfield. But it was three nil at half time regardless.
Those clouds I mentioned earlier had also come into play. A cold, moist breeze had started early in the half, threatening rain. And boy, in the second half, did it come down. It rained buckets, pails, bathtubs, spas and small reservoirs. But mostly, due to the roof of the Trusts main stand, it rained on the players. Massey attempted to play a more expansive game to find their opener. Unfortunately, despite the clouds attempting to drown us all, there were scant opportunities for that much needed first goal.
Glenfield looked like defending champions in the second half, controlling the game well and ensuring that their opponents were never able to maintain an attacking momentum. The competition was fierce, despite the conditions making possession tricky to retain and passing difficult to judge.
It was corners again which undid Massey again though, the ball dropping to Milne who placed it beyond the keeper on 54 minutes. Worse than the scoreline was the injury suffered by Charlotte Gordon, who was stretchered from the field following an innocuous clash on the edge of her own area. From the stands it looked serious, and the applause which saw her leave the pitch indicated the sympathy all watching felt with the stricken player.
The rain intensified as Massey attempted to take something from the game beyond their obvious efforts which had brought them to the final. In the end though, there was no breakthrough and Glenfield Rovers retained the cup, their third win in five years.
This was my first women’s game. It won’t be my last. A crowd of a hundred or so saw this year’s final, and it’d be nice for the compelling and competitive football the two sides displayed to draw more than that. Roll on next season.
Categories: NZ Kate Sheppard Cup
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.