Papatoetoe AFC v Manukau City AFC
Murdoch Park, Papatoetoe
Saturday 27th August – 5pm kickoff,
Manukau City knew what they had to do before kick-off. Wait. Their game against Papatoetoe AFC, under the lights at Murdoch Park, started at 5pm. In the clubrooms before the game, as the reserves filtered through picking up a beer, Assistant Coach Ricky checked his phone – occasionally shouting through to Club Chairman Duncan Edwards.
City needed Waitemata to either lose or draw down at Ngaruawahia to enable them to win the title by beating Papatoetoe. Unfortunately two penalties in the first half to the rapidly rising Westie team, a red card to Ngarua captain in the second half, and a third goal to cap things off meant that while City have essentially won the NRFL Division Two title – there’s still a mathematical chance Waitemata could overhaul them when they play their final game of the season on September 10th.
Murdoch Park’s imposing soviet concrete terraces are a little treasure of South Auckland football. The local derby between the two teams, whose line ups featured those who’d often played in the colours of their opponents, attracted a vocal and exuberant crowd – the Papatoetoe supporter with the pump air-horn and the line in bellowed chants making a bid for the South Auckland Bucketman position with his regular ear splitting interventions.
He was silenced less than a minute into the game. The attacking quartet of Ishak Nazeem, Uba Nunez, Iwa Shaker and Leo Berlim – with Ishak playing at right back – combined to send Shaker through on goal. The, to be honest, scarily tall Papatoetoe keeper was quick off his line but clattered the diminutive striker. Penalty.
Up stepped Nunez, hoping to close the gap on Takapuna’s Arkito Morita in the race for the golden boot. The keeper went the right way, but the ball evading him and struck the post – rebounding clear before being hacked away.
Having survived the early scare, Papatoetoe came into the game a bit more. Up against Manukau’s 3 – 5 – 3 wing-back formation, with Nazeem and Stephen Money providing the width, they dropped an extra man in midfield and attempted to exploit the space created as the City players pushed up. They succeeded in getting down near the corner flags, but couldn’t find a way past 100-cap man Hone Fowler.
City’s midfield seemed a little light on influence, with their biggest outlet being the rapidly whirring legs of Nazeem – heartily cheered on by the City supporters every time he recieved the ball in space on the right. His acrobatic volley on 18 minutes would have been a goal worthy of a professional division, had it gone in. It didn’t, but it looked bloody good.
The goal was coming though and it was a cross from the right hand side, Nazeem putting the ball into the dreaded corridor of uncertainty. The Toey keeper, Divikesh Deo, came for it but Shaker got their first, clipping it past him and wheeling away in celebration.
Credit to Papatoetoe, they kept on attacking. They also had the benefit of Eammon O’Brien in their defence who spent the game clearing out and cleaning up most of City’s efforts to create a goalscoring opportunity. Good in the air, good on the deck. Without him, and the giant Deo in goal, it could have been more than 1 – 0 as the teams headed back to the clubhouse for half-time.
Papatoetoe AFC 0 – 1 Manukau City AFC
Having visited the excellent tuck shop at half time, it appeared I wasn’t the only side to get a boost from the break. Having seen City a few times this season, they do have a tendency to lose intensity for ten to fifteen minute periods. Papatoetoe took advantage of this, and after good driving midfield work from Scott Booker, Sandeep Singh’s long range shot flying over the bar.
That woke them up. There was a period where descriptive text can’t do justice to the goal mouth madness, where Manukau seemed poised to score three times in under fifteen seconds only for Deo, O’Brien or the flying red-shirts to block, intercept or clear. Backs to the wall stuff, but done with style.
The impressive Divikesh Deo also produced a save which looked impossible. Iwa Shaker latched onto a ball less than a foot from the rangy keeper and smashed it goalwards, only to see it clawed out with an instinctive stop that drew admiration from both sets of supporters.
Then, penalty to Papatoetoe. A shoulder to shoulder in the box saw the red-shirt fall and before he’d hit the deck, everyone’s eyes had gone to the referee. At the same end as Nunez had taken his, up stepped
Ben Allan Dagan Bland (who was dobbed in by Scott Yearbury, chur Scott!) and…
— Papatoetoe AFC (@PapatoetoeAFC) August 27, 2016
At the time I thought it had struck the post and bounced clear. This excellent video from Papatoetoe’s twitter account shows that Vasquez caught the rebound with his legs, sending it rocketing clear.
Three minutes later, Manukau doubled their advantage. O’Brien in the Toey defence stepped up and was, for the first time all game, caught out of position. Shaker went through and scored. 2 – 0.
It was 3 – 0 after Nazeem was pulled down in the box. Uba Nunez made no mistake with his penalty this time, hammering the ball into the roof of the net and pulling within two goals of Morita in the scoring charts.
There was still time for Deo to produce another wonder-save, this time a mid-air change of direction to tip over a header. For a big lad, he’s certainly mobile.
Nunez scored the fourth minutes before the final whistle. Seizing an over-run ball headed towards the corner flag, he scooted inside along the touchline and placed the shot across the mouth of the goal, the ball nestling into the side netting.
Full Time – Papatoetoe AFC 0 – 4 Manukau City AFC
The assembled Manukau City supporters broke into the club song and cheered Captain Hone Fowler, who made his 100th appearance for the club. He looked delighted, the poster of him, less delighted. He and his team will make the journey down to Ngaruawahia next weekend in order to put their second hand on the trophy, barring a loss or draw and Waitemata winning 10 – 0 against Te Atatu. Surely not? See you next weekend in Ngaruawahia.
Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 2
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.