New Zealand have faced England twice in international football. Given the apparently unending Union, League and cricket matches between the two, it’s surprising to find that the only encounters in football took place in 1991 as part of the New Zealand football’s centenary celebrations.
1991 wasn’t the best year for either side. New Zealand had won all three games in a series against China the previous year, but lost both legs of the 1991 Trans Tasman Cup against Australia. The All Whites weren’t short on experience though, with coach Ian Marshall calling upon Clint Gosling, captain Malcolm Dunford, Michael McGarry and Fred De Jong.
England were less than twelve months on from that semi-final against Germany, a high point that has gained in altitude with the passing of time. Shilton had retired after a twenty year career. Gascoigne had injured himself in the 1991 cup final, a sign of things to come. The defence remained intact though, Wright, Walker, Parker and Pearce.
This was a team in transition under the new, unbeaten, management of Graham Taylor. In their squad were relative newcomers including David Batty, Brian Deane, John Salako, Earl Barratt, Ian Wright and Dennis Wise. Gary Lineker, seeking Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record, captained the side.The first of two games was played at Mt Smart Stadium, before a crowd of 17,520.
It was the All Whites who created the best chance of the first half. From a corner, Robert Ironside put Chris Woods off and the Rangers keeper failed to collect the ball, letting it go through his hands. It dropped for Dunford.
On the volley, turning, Dunford could only sky the ball onto the running track behind the goal “…the captain will be disappointed with that” intones Motson as Dunford thumped his forehead in frustration.
Lineker had a half opportunity, chasing onto a long ball from the back, but the close attention of Ceri Evans meant his attempt was comfortably collected by Gosling in goal.
At half time the score was 0 – 0, thanks to some solid defending and organisation by the All Whites. They were still in the game.
The All Whites created a chance early in the second half too. Declan Edge’s corner punched clear by a nervy Woods, falling at the feet of Danny Halligan whose placed shot headed skywards.
Regulation time was marked by three chances for England. A Dennis Wise free kick was nodded over the bar. Wise himself got on the end of a Pearce free kick but could only send the ball spinning wide of the post.
The head of debutant Brian Deane was a frequent target and John Salako, on for Mark Walters, rattled the bar with a half volley as the clock ticked over to the 90.
Into the nineties. New Zealand pressed and Halligan’s wild shot from another Edge corner which was, as Motson said, ‘…rising all the time’.
Motson: Well they’ve certainly enjoyed themselves, the New Zealanders, they’ll see this as a moral victory, won’t they Trevor, to hold England nil nil in a full international
Francis: Well, thoroughly deserved too. I think it would have been a bit cruel if they had conceded that last minute goal, because they’ve battled all the way through and England, as I say, on the day the quality hasn’t been there. They’ve lacked the passing, as I said, has been poor and the creative passing from midfield is something, without Gascoigne there, is very short…
While this exchange goes on, the goal kick taken by Woods is headed back into England’s half by a packed New Zealand midfield. Earl Barratt miscontrols it. New Zealand push forward but the ball is returned to Woods.
His quickly taken kick sails over the retreating All Whites. It’s knocked down for Geoff Thomas who passes to Lineker, his back to goal. Lineker shifts it to Wise on the wide right. Paul Parker goes flying past him on the overlap and delivers a cross on the run, ending up standing five yards off the pitch.
The ball screams across the box, dipping towards the near post. And there’s Lineker, getting between the two defenders and across the keeper to flick it into a postage stamp space available.
His 41st international goal. 93 minutes on the clock.
The final whistle blew. Taylor set a record of 10 games unbeaten from his appointment. Let’s leave it to Motson…
“…but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that for long periods New Zealand were England’s equals today and put up a proud performance and England looked for long spells of the match heavy legged and rather lifeless…”
England would play New Zealand again on June 8th at Athletic Park in Wellington. They won 2 – 0 with goals from Stuart Pearce and David Hirst – his only goal for his country. You can find the highlights of that game here…
John Palethorpe lives in South Auckland which is very far away from Fratton Park and Champion Hill. Having been told there was no football in New Zealand, he was delighted to find that there is.