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An even plane

Papatoetoe 2, Forrest Hill Milford 1
Murdoch Park, Auckland, April 24 2016

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And the run continues! Three weekends in a row when it’s been fine on Saturday and wet on Sunday. What’s going on? Once again we have had men’s football in perfect conditions and women’s football in miserable ones. And where is the public outcry? Where’s the commission of enquiry? I demand petitions. I demand select committee hearings. I demand an urgent session of the War Crimes Tribunal.

I briefly considered not going to a game today and cowering at home in the dry for a change, but I didn’t want to give in to the patriarchy so I took one for the team. Fortunately this Sunday’s rain wasn’t quite as bad as the last couple of weeks’ have been.

Believe it or not this is my first ever women’s game at Papatoetoe’s Murdoch Park (I have watched men play here a few times) and it’s only the second time I have seen the Papatoetoe ladies play at all outside pre-season – the first being way back in May 2014 at Gordon Spratt Reserve, Papamoa. So this was definitely long overdue. It’s a great venue with old school football charm. I kind of think of it as the Shea Stadium of New Zealand football. Because like the former home of the New York Mets it’s both packed with history and situated close to a major airport right underneath the flight path.

One of these days I’ll get a photo of a big bird coming in to land over Murdoch that does the spectacle justice but in the meantime, just know that it’s way cool.

What really made the decision to come here this weekend super easy, however, was the prospect of a really close game! Papatoetoe have strengthened considerably in the offseason while Forrest Hill have lost a few good players – add those two things together and along with recent results the signs all pointed to this being a cracker. And it was.

The first half is best summed up by reporting that Papatoetoe enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but there were chances at both ends and, if anything, I thought Forrest Hill Milford looked a little bit more accurate and potentially dangerous. But both sides were guilty of giving away too much possession in midfield and so what we got was a good old fashioned arm wrestle.

Papatoetoe struck first just fifteen minutes in but it was a rather soft goal. A Forrest Hill Milford back pass from Molly Flynn to keeper Emily Couchman was poorly weighted and latched onto by ‘Toe number nine Britney Cunningham-Lee. After jinking around the keeper she still had an acute angle to work with to complete the goal but she beautifully snuck it inside the left upright and it was a fortunate yet somewhat deserved 1-0 lead for the home side.

Despite Papatoetoe’s continued dominance in the posession stakes, that was the only goal they managed in the first half thanks in large part to some solid defensive work from the likes of Tessa Berger who was diving in all over the place. I especially enjoyed Berger’s battle with Papatoetoe’s Jax David – two experienced campaigners competing well.

The second half saw the visitors in the ascendency to begin with but it was end to end stuff at times. FHM certainly had their share of chances to get themselves back on level terms at the very least but couldn’t quite seem to click and there was also a sharp save or two from Couchman later in the half in particular.

For a good twenty minutes or so, however, with nothing getting past the respective keepers, I was starting to think we were in for a 1-0 final score and I was trying to remember when the last time was that I saw one of those in women’s football! They are certainly few and far between in my experience. But my daydreams were interrupted with just eleven minutes left in the 90 when Cunningham Lee was released on goal and made no mistake in doubling both her tally and Papatoetoe’s.

Forrest Hill Milford were far from done though, as they poured forward looking for a way back into the game. Their reward finally came via an own goal in the 91st minute but it was too little too late. 2-1 was all she wrote.

So today we had losses for the 2015 champions (Claudelands were walloped 11-1 by Three Kings – ouch!!), and the 2014 champions here. The intrigue continues and we all wait with baited breath to see what twists and turns await us next!

Categories: NZ Northern Women's Premier

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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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