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Murdoch magic

Papatoetoe 4, Hamilton Wanderers 1
Murdoch Park, Auckland, June 12 2016

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There’s more football on than you can shake a stick at right now. We’ve had the Football Ferns playing two games against Australia in Australia last week, we’ve had the All Whites book a place at the Confederations Cup by winning the Oceania Nations Cup last night, the USA Under 19 women’s side is playing three games in Auckland next week, and all this is happening while we’ve got the Copa America playing out on our TV screens. There’s something else going on too apparently, but I’m damned if I can recall just what it is at the moment…… It’s on the tip of my tongue…… Oh yeah, the Euros.

For most football fans this week, sleep is something other people do.

But that doesn’t stop grassroots football from being the best game in town! And seeing as though I have been saving all my energy for Italy and not overindulging in late night stuff (I’m not in my 30s anymore sadly) my early mornings are all ahead of me and I’ve still got all the oomph in the world for NRFL. Of course, I’ll still cover games next week but I might need wheeling in and out…

This week’s fixture was my second visit to Murdoch Park this season, where Papatoetoe had a hugely important tussle with Hamilton Wanderers. Going into the match the bottom three on the Women’s Premier ladder showed Lynn Avon last on one point, Wanderers second to last on four points and Papatoetoe just two points ahead of today’s rivals on six. So this game really was a battle of who wants to spend the rest of the season in a relegation scrap, and who wants to shoot towards lower-mid table.

Papatoetoe might well feel like they have too much talent in their squad to be in relegation danger, and today they showed that to be true. Their star striker, 15 year old Britney Cunningham-Lee, caused havoc, and age-group international starlet Ally Toailoa also stood out at the back.

The home side didn’t have it all their own way though, as they traded blows with the Hamiltonians early on in the match. However it was still ‘Toey’ who looked more likely and so it was little surprise to me when Cunningham-Lee broke free of the defence and slotted with just seven minutes left in the first half. But it was at this point that the game really came alive!

Just two minutes later Wanderers were awarded a free kick on the right side of the penalty area, which found Hannah Reid on the far post, who tied up the game at one apiece. And the first half drama still wasn’t over! Almost straight from the restart, Jax David looped one in to restore Papatoetoe’s lead and send us into the half time break with the score at 2-1 in favour of the reds. Things were still finely balanced.

Papatoetoe coach Andrew Kirk’s half time talk must have been a doozy though, because the second half mostly belonged to his charges.  Cunningham-Lee drove their advantage home when she rounded Wanderers keeper Hilary Forster and rolled home her second to take the score to 3-1 in the 53rd minute, and then she buried the Hamiltonians by completing her hat-trick ten minutes later.

That loss leaves Wanderers in a slightly precarious spot and caps off a disappointing fortnight that also saw them knocked out of the New Zealand Women’s Knockout Cup by Metro – the team they defeated in their promotion playoff at the end of last season. Both losses must have really stung, but they’ll need to pull themselves together fast. Another big game looms for them next week when they host Lynn Avon. Win that and they should be safe from the drop. Lose, and it’s going to be a white knuckle ride to the end of the season…

As for Papatoetoe, I only have this to add: Britney Cunningham-Lee – remember that name folks! Something tells me you’ll be hearing it a bit at international level before too long…

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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