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Paradise lost

North Shore United 1, Mount Albert Ponsonby 2
Allen Hill Stadium, Auckland, July 23 2016

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There are relegation six pointers and there are promotion six pointers – this was certainly the latter. With Waitakere’s ascension back into the top echelons of the Northern League all but assured, the race is well and truly on for second place and the other promotion spot. North Shore were in poll position going into this game – a familiar position for the giallorossi of Auckland. They were also favourites for promotion last season and almost sealed it only to falter at the business end of the season.

Standing in their way today was third placed Mount Albert Ponsonby, trailing the Shoreites by a solitary point. All the indicators were that this game would be a cracker, and if nothing else it certainly kept all concerned on the edges of their seats!

I’ve never been a North Shore United fan, but I always love attending games at Allen Hill. It’s partly the childhood memories of coming here with my brother to watch National League games in the early nineties. But even if it wasn’t for those, there’s still just something about this place for the football romantic in me. It’s the rustic charm of it.

The old press box that was too dangerous to go near for what seemed like a decade is gone now, which is a shame, but the wonky old covered stand made of scaffolding that rises and falls with the contours of the bank it sits on still presides over the scene. It’s one of my favourite things about Auckland football. I hope they never take it away or replace it with something new and soulless.

But if the venue was a little bit askew (in a good way), the football on display wasn’t. It was an interesting arm wrestle that, as their table positions suggested, could have easily gone either way.

MAP had the better of the opening exchanges, almost taking an early lead when one of the North Shore defenders headed a dangerous cross back towards the top left hand corner of his own net, forcing a sharp save out of his keeper.

But after that the home side started to assert themselves on the game. Things well and truly turned in their favour around twenty minutes in when a North Shore attacking player was shoved out of the way by a MAP defender as an aerial ball descended from the heavens into the danger zone. Shore’s Claudio Amad stepped up and slotted the resulting penalty, ensuring that his side would head into the sheds at half time with a one goal advantage after they had dominated the balance of proceedings up until the break.

MAP seized a measure of control back for themselves at around about the hour mark when referee Chris Kerr once again awarded a spot kick, and it was Peter Wild who converted for the blue and gold to bring them back onto level terms. The points really were anyone’s from that point on, with a draw looking like the most likely outcome given nobody had managed to breach either of the defences up until this point apart from via the penalty spot.

But as the game entered its last ten minutes, Wild struck the decisive blow – a super shot that some onlookers thought had a hint of offside about it in the build-up, but none the less it counted and, despite furious efforts by the home side to get back to level terms, it gave the visitors a deserved if somewhat fortunate victory.

The Shore playing staff were looking pretty glum as they sunk to the deck after the final whistle, but hopefully when the disappointment fades they will look at the table and realise that the season still has a way to go. This skirmish was lost but the fight has a few rounds left!

Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 1

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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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