Chatham Cup Final 2016
Sunday, 11th September – 15:30 KO
QBE Stadium Albany
Birkenhead United v Waitakere City
Ten dollars can’t get you a lot these days. A medium Maccas. A couple of bags of pineapple lumps. 0.001% of the average Auckland house price.
For that princely sum though, you could get over six hours of cup final football – featuring dramatic equalisers, comebacks, nervy extra time and a penalty shoot out – and that was just the Womens Knockout Cup game, which I’ll leave to Enzo to report on.
In the Chatham Cup final, it was Waitakere City up against Birkenhead United. City were coming off the back of an unbeaten promotion season back into the Northern Premier League. Birkenhead, comfortably mid-table in that league, had gone one better than 2015 and won their semi-final game against Miramar Rangers.
Under the arc of the North Harbour Stadium roof, the supporters gathered. From Block 1 to 5, there was a sea of red and white. From Block 6 onwards, there was black and white. Over 4,000 people spread across the main stand, a big uptick from the previous years affair.
The game started with a thump. And a few kicks. The yellow card count was three before there were five minutes on the clock, after some heavy challenges and over enthusiastic grappling got the referees attention.
City put together some neat passing, but couldn’t force an opening. United soaked up the pressure, with Godwin Darka switching wings to be an outlet for them. Birkenhead’s patience paid off on 23 minutes, as Jarrod Smith galloped onto a pass, took a touch that looked to have put it awkwardly out of reach for the follow-up shot, but directed the ball past Ross Nicholson in goal for City. Jubilation for the red and white army, as their goalscoring hero sprinted towards them.
Waitakere’s goalscoring exploits this season were well known, but the stout defence of Birkenhead was intent on choking off opportunities to shoot and driving the lively Dylan Manickum wide when he was on the ball in the final third.
A second for Birkenhead, and some defending to forget for City who allowed Darka to skip through three players before stroking it across the box to Parkinson. Parkinson in turn, with the City defence converging, played a simple ball back to Smith who sidefooted home.
City were starting to up their game though and Manickum rounded the keeper before his shot was cleared off the line. The hands clutching heads in the stands on both sides told a story of how close it was. The game was still in the balance, even as the half time whistle blew.
HT Birkenhead United 2 – 0 Waitakere City
If before the break, Waitakere were looking the more likely to score, the second half saw them click into their title winning gear. They dragged a shot just wide of the post in the early stages, Manickum again.
There was a lack of finish to their play though, and Birkenhead Keeper Damien Hirst (no, not him) was seldom troubled throughout most of the half. It looked done, especially when Ethan Galbraith rattled Nicholson’s post with less than ten minutes to play.
Then it happened. Manickum twisted, turned and tumbled his way through defenders and put the ball past Hirst, falling in the process. However, the ball dribbled towards the line and Manickum hurled himself at it, forcing it home despite the attention of defender (and naughty book star) Christian Grey. 2 – 1. 86 minutes gone.
89 minutes. Penalty. Steven MacDonald, caught by Grey’s trailing leg. Keegan Linderboom equalising with a hard, drilled shot low to the ‘keepers left.
The referee blew up on 93 minutes. Extra time then.
FT Birkenhead United 2 – 2 Waitakere City (ET to be played)
Birkenhead looked out of gas and Waitakere took to the first half of extra time with all the energy of a team beginning the game. They pressed early on and managed to ping one off Hirst’s post, creating chance after chance. The stack of yellow cards dished out saw Birkenhead’s Ryan Cain be sent to the showers for a second offence early on.
Strangely the sending off seemed to perk up the North Shore side – they contrived to smash Nicholson’s post when it would have been easier to score the damn goal and worked their way back onto an equal footing.
HT in ET Birkenhead United 2 – 2 Waitakere City
It’s not that we didn’t want the game to end, but if anything this final had gotten better as the afternoon had worn on. From the early cagey affair, the final fifteen minutes of these teams seasons was a tense end-to-end affair, with no shortage of commitment from both sets of exhausted players.
It was Birkenhead that struck though, on 111 minutes. Nicholson came for a cross. Galbraith challenged Nicholson. City’s #3 Olausen was sandwiched between them, and the resulting bump saw the ball drop out of the ‘keepers hands and Galbraith fire it home to furious protest from the Waitakere players.
There was yet time for a couple more Waitakere attacks, but their forays into the Birkenhead penalty area ended in much the same way as most of their attacks, the four minutes which had brought them level aside.
FT in ET Birkenhead United 3 – 2 Waitakere City
This wasn’t just a Chatham Cup Final to be recorded in next year’s programme as ‘2016: Birkenhead United’. This was one for the history books. A first title for Birkenhead United and an agonising nearly-story for Waitakere, who’ll rue the double that got away.
All of this, and the Women’s KO Cup final too, for $10? There’s little wonder that those streaming out of the ground at full time, on either side, looked happy. Worth every penny and then some.
Categories: NZ Chatham Cup
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.