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Attending the Conference

Ellerslie 5, Hibiscus Coast 1
Michaels Avenue, Auckland, July 3 2016

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I am, for my sins, an avid reader of the Northern League Forum. I don’t take everything I read on there as gospel – if I did that I’d probably be writing this wrapped in tinfoil, adopting the foetal position, deep inside a very dark cave. The fact that I am in fact writing this wrapped in tinfoil, adopting the foetal position and deep inside a very dark cave has absolutely nothing to do with the Northern League Forum and everything to do with Euro 2016. What I can and will blame that forum for, however, is the fact that I dragged my depressed carcass out of the cave and over to Michaels Avenue for the subject of this post.

One thing I have read on the Northern League Forum that I at least wanted to investigate at some point is the claim of some that the AFF/NFF Women’s Conference is a very good football league this year. And so I decided that yesterday was the day to check it out.

A quick look at the ladder showed that this was likely to be the match of the round. Three points separated the two sides with Hibiscus Coast in fourth, Ellerslie in sixth, and no more than three goals separating their for and against stats – Ellerslie had scored three more (43) and conceded two less (25) than their loftier opponents. Competition tables can be deceiving though, and it was only after I arrived at the ground that I learned Hibiscus Coast have suffered a massive player drain with no fewer than eleven of the women they started the season with no longer available for various reasons.

Given that handicap, the visitors put in a very good performance against obviously stronger opposition for large parts of the game. Ellerslie’s team boasted a few players I recognised from stints with other clubs in the Northern League. Chief amongst them was Sarah Broadbent who I have seen play for Papatoetoe before, and I thought she had an outstanding game here.

It was a Broadbent run that set up the opening goal in the tenth minute. She scythed through the Hibiscus Coast defence, into space, and shot from an angle on the right. The keeper did well to parry but only into the path of Ellerslie’s Louise Cairns, backing up well on a back post run, who chested home.

Nine minutes later Broadbent went on a strikingly similar run to the previous one, but this time she slammed home to double her side’s lead.

For the rest of the opening forty-five minutes I thought Hibiscus Coast enjoyed their strongest period of the game, applying some pressure to the Ellerslie defence at the other end of the park. Their efforts were eventually rewarded when Nicole Hyde got on the end of a corner to bring the score back to 2-1 in favour of the hosts. And that was how it remained until the half time break.

About nine minutes into the second stanza we had a longish injury break when two Hibiscus Coast players collided. It was Lisa Callan who appeared to have come off worst in the accident and unfortunately she couldn’t continue – which was a real pity because she had been, in my opinion, their sharpest and most dangerous looking player up until that point.

Perhaps the loss of such an influential figure was a bit of a knock to the visitors’ confidence; because from that point on the game was mostly under Ellerslie’s control. Having said that though, they weren’t able to extend their lead until there were about 15 minutes remaining. The Ellerslie coach rung the changes at this point, with three replacements all at once. It immediately paid off when one of the newbies, Sophie Sills, broke through the defence and tucked away 1v1 with the keeper.

3-1 became 4-1 in the 81st minute when Chrissy Liversidge twisted and turned through the defence, ignored two wide open support runners who could have easily tapped in, instead embracing the principle of ‘if you want a job done properly you’ve got to do it yourself!’

After that the scoring was rounded off by the absolute goal of the game – a magnificent chip over the keeper’s head from about 40 meters out – take a bow Carina Ewens!

So a comprehensive defeat for Hibiscus Coast, albeit one with mitigating circumstances. Interestingly though, the last time these two sides met was back in round three and the score, according to the AFF website, was…. 5-1 to Ellerslie…

This result now sees the two sides level on points in equal fourth. They have a seven point deficit to make up with leaders Fencibles, with six games left for Hibiscus and five for Ellerslie.

My verdict on the Conference? I can’t really say based on one game, but it was enjoyable and I will try to catch another one before the season is out. If anyone who follows this league closely has a recommendation of a good fixture for me to attend next, let me know in the comments and I’ll see if I can slot it in!

[Special thanks to Jeremy Ruane for the incredible code-cracking skills he deployed to decipher the Hibiscus Coast team card for me! It was without a doubt the most impossible to read one I’ve ever struck.]

Categories: NZ AFF/NFF Women's Conference

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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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