Claudelands Rovers 2, Hamilton Wanderers 2
Galloway Park, Hamilton, May 1 2016
May the first is usually associated with one of two things – May poles, or trade unionists marching up Queen Street (up rather than down because it’s all about the struggle comrades) singing Solidarity Forever. But today, May Day only meant one thing to me – the first NRFL women’s premier Hamilton derby in thirteen years! Ever since Hamilton Wanderers won promotion to this competition, this has been a game that I have been looking forward to immensely.
My biggest hope was always that this fixture would be closely fought and exciting. In the build up to the day it became clear that it would be. And boy – was it ever!
Claudelands were coming off an 11-1 thrashing at Three Kings last week – a result of the sort of magnitude we are used to seeing them dish out, not receive! They have lost the overwhelming majority of last year’s championship winning team so this year was always going to be a bit of a struggle, but I still doubt that anyone saw that result coming. It was their first ten goal defeat since Lynn Avon put them to the sword 10-0 way back in 2002. Their biggest ever loss remains a 13-0 hiding at the hands of Three Kings in 1998. Regardless, it must have given them a real sense of a point to prove in this game.
Meanwhile over at the northern end of Hamilton’s east side, Wanderers appear to be growing in confidence! I have deduced this purely from a shift in their pre-game musical selections… Prior to their first game of the season vs Lynn Avon at Crum Park, I arrived at the ground to the strains of Leonard Cohen’s gospel ballad ‘Hallelujah’ blaring out of the Wanderers dressing room at a thousand decibels – perhaps to give thanks to the football gods for the privilege of simply playing at this level? In any event, today’s pre-game musical inspiration was quite different – Rihanna’s ‘Bitch better have my money’… You can draw your own inferences about the exact meaning of this choice but I’ll think you’ll agree that at the very least it’s slightly more assertive!
As for the game, well it was never a dull moment! Wanderers seized the initiative right from the start with Hannah Reid getting on the end of a corner to nod home and send the away fans into rapture. But their joy was short lived. Just eight minutes later Tiana Hill chipped the keeper to level the scores.
At times it seemed as though nobody wanted the ball much as it changed hands in midfield a bit like a pinball, but on balance it was Claudelands who dominated. The team in red would have had a half time lead if they hadn’t fired so many shots directly at Wanderers keeper Hilary Forster. As it happens they went into the sheds with the scores level at one a piece.
Forster was in the action once again inside the first ten minutes of the second half, this time in a bad way for her and Wanderers. A nasty collision with Rovers’ substitute forward Ayla Pratt saw the stopper cop a knee to the head that resulted in an ambulance being called.
Almost as soon as we got back underway via a drop ball at the scene of the crime, Wanderers, perhaps fired up by the incident, immediately surged down the other end and retook the lead via Briana Stewart.
The visitors’ second scoreboard advantage lasted longer than their first, but only by five minutes. On this occasion it was Sarah Krystman who brought us back to all square…
Then, unfortunately, Wanderers lost their second keeper – substitute Georgia Candy – to what looked like an arm injury. This time it was Ella Golding’s boot in the collision, for which she received a yellow card. In reality the Pratt tackle was the more ‘interesting’ of the two and probably deserved punishment more so than Golding’s, but that’s the way it goes in situations like that sometimes…
Wanderers defender Michaela Clark filled in with the gloves from that point on, and did a fine job too, being called into action a couple of times.
The final controversy was when the ref blew for full time seemingly eight minutes early! Both stoppages were long, probably a combined total of close to twenty minutes, and Claudelands were incensed – they rightly felt a bit robbed that they couldn’t have a bit more time taking pot shots at the Wanderers goal sans recognised keeper!
But it wasn’t to be.
On the way home from Hamilton, I was trying to remember the last draw I saw in women’s football. I couldn’t remember one. And a check of my archives confirmed that the only other competitive draw I’ve ever covered was Wanderers vs Metro in last season’s playoff second leg – a tie that Wanderers still won on aggregate so you could argue that it doesn’t count.
Roll on the return leg! I wonder which song will be emanating from the Wanderers changing room then? If you post your suggestions in the comments below I’ll pass on the best ones… My pick is Frank Sinatra’s ‘I Get a Kick Out of You’.
Categories: NZ Northern Women's Premier
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.