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Back to kindergarten

WaiBOP United 2, Canterbury United 3
Porritt Stadium, Hamilton, December 6 2015

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I wasn’t going to write anything about last night’s A-League game at North Harbour Stadium. This is mostly due to the fact that I was in a huff because the FFA rejected my application for photographer credentials for the match. But I’m not holding that against them now, after attending an ASB Youth League game today that made me feel much better about life!

For starters, today’s game was played on grass and that is something one should never take for granted in this day and age. For another thing, the two sides were wearing different kits, and that is the sort of radical approach to organising football games that may well take the world by storm. Nobody at the game today was banned for life (or sent to Christmas Island) without evidence or any right of appeal which made me feel like maybe there was some kind of communist conspiracy going on to actually treat fans like they are somehow distantly related to actual people… And to top things off, neither of the two clubs playing today has ever been accused of “squatting on a license” despite being the most financially stable franchise in their competition.

So yes, the difference between the organisational standard of the A-League and the ASB Youth League is like the gulf between Bayern Munich and the Huntly College second XI.

But I’m not bitter anymore! Because in light of all that, I would have been more worried if they HAD let me take photos of their bloody football game!

Anyhoo, now that THAT’S off my chest…

This was an opportunity to take a glimpse into the future of Waikato national league football in more ways than one! Because here we were at Porritt Stadium, the home of Hamilton Wanderers who are strong favourites for a shiny new ASB Premiership license, watching the next generation of footballers who may well be playing in future Wanderers teams at that level. And if, when that day comes, they are fighting for a place at the top of the table like they were today, albeit unsuccessfully, I will be very happy indeed.

One point separated WaiBOP United in fourth and Canterbury United in third going into this clash, and both were just a solitary point shy of both Waitakere and Team Wellington in joint first. So this was a huge match, and the pressure was clear in the sort of atmosphere the game was played in. It was quite the grumpy affair at times with some crunching tackles and fraying tempers.

I have to say I thought the ref and his assistants copped a lot of abuse that wouldn’t have been shown the same tolerance in a senior game. And, in addition to that, one WaiBOP player also took his substitution dramatically poorly, telling anyone who would listen how hard done by he was as he flounced back to the changing room… All in all I thought the lino’s late game comment to one Canterbury player that he should “go back to kindergarten” could have been applied more widely…

The match itself got more exciting as it wore on but the first 40 minutes or so were one way traffic. Canterbury struck in the 8th minute via Sho Mathieson and then again in the 29th via Ryan Stanley and in between WaiBOP barely got a look in. It took until the dying embers of the first half for the home side to finally look like a team capable of topping the table. It seemed destined to count for nothing however, when a penalty was awarded to WaiBOP only for it to be nicely saved by Canterbury keeper Lewis Gordon. But then Bailey Webster’s 45th minute goal made the half time score 2-1 and the game still anyone’s.

Canterbury continued to dominate in the second half however, looking far more likely to extend their lead than WaiBOP were to equalise. That was until late in the game as late can be when things all of a sudden got very interesting! The fourth official added on 6 extra minutes at the end of the 90 which were required after several injury breaks, most notably for over-age player Marc Evans whose injury looked quite serious.

In the fourth of those added minutes, Nate Kinney struck an equaliser for WaiBOP that sent his team and the home supporters into rapture! The goal had come from a free kick that Canterbury players were particularly aggrieved about – hence the kindergarten comment from the lino – but he who laughs last laughs longest. Aaron Spain knocked home Canterbury’s winner just a minute later to seize all three points.

Only two rounds remain in the ASB Youth League. Canterbury now top the table, one point ahead of Waitakere, who are one point ahead of Team Wellington. Auckland City, Southern United and WaiBOP all find themselves four points adrift.

My other gripe of the weekend is I couldn’t afford the exorbitant prices airlines were charging to go to Christchurch, so I missed the ASB Women’s League final. But despite that, congratulations must go to Northern! Worthy winners indeed. They were always the best group of players in the league, the only question was would they be the best team? They answered in the affirmative and will be very difficult to beat for some years to come I’d wager.

Categories: NZ Men's National Youth League

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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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