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New Zealand Development 0, Mainland Pride 2
Taharoto Park, Auckland, October 11 2015

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There was so much to look forward to about this game, I hardly know where to start! Of the fixtures in the ASB Women’s League opening day double header, if not the entire round, this was clearly the most eagerly anticipated match up.

For starters, it’s a replay of last season’s final. Mainland Pride defeated New Zealand Development 3-1 in Christchurch on 7 December last year to lift the trophy for the second successive time, however both sides have undergone some significant personnel changes since then.

Development have done what Development is there to do – development! The virtual New Zealand Under 17 squad have seen a fair chunk of their players from the last season or two develop on out of there into the ranks of other teams in the senior realm, albeit only to be replaced in the squad by new fresh exciting talent. Meanwhile, Mainland have lost a host of good players to both the drift north to study and play in Auckland during winter, and the lure of overseas opportunities in the US and elsewhere. This has left them with some rebuilding to do in a couple of areas.

Another big loss for Mainland has been the departure of the coach that guided them to those two straight successes – Gareth Turnbull was appointed New Zealand Under 17 coach during the winter and as such it was a very strange feeling at this fixture to observe him coaching against the Pride! It must have been a little weird for him and the players too.

In light of all that, popular wisdom before the match seemed to be that while this would probably be a close game, Development were likely to edge it.

But Mainland clearly had other ideas even if the first half went largely as per the script. Development looked to be on top, granting they couldn’t quite translate that into an advantage on the scoreboard.

In between Development’s raids, Football Fern Annalie Longo continued her run of form as easily the most impressive player on the field in every game I can think of that I have ever seen her play in. It seems like she has been around forever but at only 24 years of age, the scary thing is her best is probably yet to come! The way she jinked and jived her way around the Development defence was spellbinding at times but, as with the attackers in white, she was unable to trouble the scorers before the break and 0-0 was the half time score.

Then came the breakthrough. Development were stunned just three minutes into the second half when Monique Barker found herself bearing down on goal almost one on one with the keeper, a lone defender in tow. I thought she had left her shot too late as Ally Toailoa came into play but instead her effort glanced off Anna Leat’s outstretched fingers as the keeper dived to her left, and the ball found the bottom corner.

The two sides continued to trade blows from there even though Development continued to look the more menacing and were only really denied by the crossbar, some sharp keeping and a spot of rotten luck. An equaliser would have been the least they deserved but instead it was Mainland who doubled their advantage on the counterattack in the 74th minute via Emma Clarke, and that was the ballgame.

Soooooooo in other results: Northern won the earlier Taharoto game vs Football South 4-0, Auckland defeated Capital in Wellington 2-0 and WaiBOP overcame Central 4-1 in Palmerston North.

In round 2 next week: South play Auckland in Dunedin, Northern play Development at North Harbour Stadium’s Outer Oval, WaiBOP play Capital in Hamilton and Mainland play Central in Christchurch.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN??????

Not much yet – teams are still finding their feet. Have patience and we’ll know more after next week’s fixtures!

Categories: NZ Women's National League

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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