Fencibles 3, Ngaruawahia 1
Riverhills Park, Auckland, April 16 2016
It’s more than past time I saw Ngaruawahia United again! And where better to check out my favourite Northern League club than at Riverhills Park, a special little football ground that always provides a picturesque setting, and against Fencibles United, a side one place ahead of Ngara in fifth on the Division 2 table going into this fixture.
The Green Machine find themselves down in division 2 only two years since their last appearance in the top flight. Double relegation was a real bummer but, with some of the players who took them all the way to the top back in the squad, things are looking up again – to the point where they are fancied by some as real contenders to bounce straight back into Division 1.
Unfortunately for them, they are one of the clubs to suffer from the withdrawal of AFC Fury from the league this week. Their impressive 4-1 victory over the Bay of Plenty outfit last Saturday has been erased from the record and is now considered a bye. Other than that they have managed a 2-1 victory over Albany in round one and a good draw against Manukau City – another highly fancied side – a week later.
Fencibles, on the other hand, are not a side I’ve seen or heard many people talk up but perhaps they should be! Before today they’d had two good wins against Onehunga Mangere and Te Atatu either side of a 2-0 loss to Papatoetoe in round two.
The match started out according to reputations with Ngara dominating. Their goal, which arrived 20 odd minutes in courtesy of Magi Mas Manresa, came as no surprise. But from there the visitors were guilty of taking their feet off the gas a bit and allowing Fencibles back into the game.
The home side piled on the pressure with both Alex Saniel and Luke Bulay in particular causing the Ngara defence quite a few issues – particularly when Bulay was brought down resulting in a free kick right on the edge of the area, and when Saniel flashed a ball across the face of the Ngara goal and very nearly in off the post… Ngara soaked it up well though then got two corners of their own, which were competently dealt with by the Fencibles defence, before Saniel somehow managed to miss a sitter back down the other end… But then came the turning point in the final seconds of first half injury time…
Saniel finally broke through and, thanks to his goal, 1-1 was the half time score.
It only took ten minutes of the second half for Fencies to well and truly snatch the momentum. A speculative ball fell through the hands of Ngara keeper Zabir Azizi and into the path of Saniel for an easy tap-in to complete his brace.
The game ebbed and flowed from that point on, with chances for both Ngara to equalise and Fencies to seal the points coming in batches. Ultimately though it was the team in red and blue who polished things off with the 90 almost up – with Azizi off his line, Ahmed Al Shamsi dinked a lovely little chip into the auld onion bag to take us to our final score – Fencibles 3, Ngaruawahia 1.
Looking at the table now, Takapuna already look highly likely to run away with this division… but the second promotion spot is well and truly up for grabs. Fencibles look quite strong to me and, given they are now level on points with Papatoetoe and Waitemata in that all important second place, they should now be recognised as ‘in the mix’.
I was told on the sideline that Ngara are expecting to lose a few players over the course of the season to other commitments so, in conjunction with today’s loss giving them a bit of ground to make up, the road ahead looks difficult.
But hey, it’s only round four! What kind of idiot makes bold pronouncements like these so early in a season?
Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 2
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.