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Wet wet wet

Eastern Suburbs 5, Hamilton Wanderers 1
Madills Farm, Auckland, April 17 2016

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What is it with bloody rain? It was dry and partly cloudy with perfect light for photos on Saturday for the men’s footy. Then for no good reason it rained like the proverbial all through the women’s footy on Sunday, fogging up my glasses, splashing water all over my camera lens, soaking me to the skin, making my presence at Madills Farm barely useful at best and potentially damaging to my gear at worst. I think it’s sexist. Sexist rain, is what it is. Intolerable. Humph.

Despite this scandalous injustice, I resisted all temptation to let it stop me. Smash the patriarchy and all that.

A few weeks ago, I attempted to get down to Hamilton for a men’s clash between Hamilton Wanderers and Eastern Suburbs. I wanted to see the two brand spanking new national league entities face off against each other in the Northern League prior to their final assent to the top. Alas, I was thwarted by Easter traffic, but last weekend presented a chance for another crack a bit closer to home.

If the ‘preferred’ plan set out by the New Zealand Football competitions review is to be followed to the letter, at some point in the not too distant future the national league will be made up of ‘pinnacle clubs’ that also have youth, futsal and women’s teams competing at the top of the pyramid. That means this game could not only have been the first ever clash between these two clubs in the Northern Women’s Premier League, but it might also be a preview of coming national women’s league attractions of the future.

But that’s the future and this is now. And in the here and now, being newly promoted to the Northern League, Wanderers have been untested against opposition of the highest quality until now. Their easy round one win vs a rebuilding Lynn Avon was one thing. Their narrow loss last outing to FHM (who also appear to be shadows of their former selves) was another step up the ladder. But this was always set to be a whole other test entirely and I for one was very interested to see how they would get on against a team packed to the gunnels with age group internationals.

As it turned out, I think they came through it pretty well! Let’s not kid ourselves, there was a gap in quality. That gap could have been much narrower though, if Wanderers had managed to hold onto some of the cheap possession they gave away in quite large measures – but that’s a fixable flaw. And a sign, I think, that this team can and probably will learn and improve markedly from experiences such as this one.

The true measure of their potential was not the start of the game, but the end. So often in previous years, during the course of this league, we have seen weaker opposition fall behind on the scoreboard, droop, then succumb to a rugby score. Well, not on this occasion they didn’t. Despite falling two goals behind early on via Jacquie Hand in the eleventh minute and Grace Jale just five minutes later, Wanderers appeared to be constantly improving throughout the match. And thus instead of the floodgates opening, those two goals were the extent of Eastern Suburbs’ first half scoring.

While Wanderers stepped up their improvement in the second half, it wasn’t enough to stop them from conceding a third goal nine minutes in when Grace Jale completed a well worked move via an assist from Aimee Phillips.

But after that they started to create some serious danger of their own, particularly when Leanna Ryan had two or three great opportunities to get her side onto the score sheet that she couldn’t quite finish off. It appeared as though all their effort would go unrewarded – especially when Phillips struck for Suburbs on the counter attack in the 78th minute, and then an 84th minute corner from Leah Mettam curled in with a little help from the gloves of the Wanderers keeper. Two preventable goals that made the final score look a little more lopsided than it need have.

Some sort of justice was finally served shortly after that though, when the referee pointed to the spot and Ryan duly slotted to give the plucky visitors a richly deserved moment to remember the occasion by.

5-1 was probably a fair reflection of the contest. But I’ll put money on the gap being closer than that next time these two sides meet.

Hopefully it will be drier then too.

And of course, just as I got into my car to drive home…. Guess what? The sun came out. Humph.

Categories: NZ Northern Women's Premier

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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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