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Nongie up

Lynn Avon 2, Ngongotaha 4 (Ngongotaha won 6-3 on aggregate)
Parrs Park, Auckland, October 8 2016

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The last remnants of winter were finally tidied away on the turf at Parrs Park today as Rotorua’s Ngongotaha comprehensively dispatched Lynn Avon to win promotion to next year’s NRFL Division 2.

Due to the demise of AFC Fury during 2015, the Northern League gets two new entrants next year. Waiheke United are already one of them, having won the Conference. The other place goes to the winner of this playoff between the WaiBOP Premiership winners and the AFF/NFF Conference runners up. Why each league didn’t get a promotion spot for each of their respective winners under the circumstances is quite beyond my understanding but there it is…

I usually try to attend all the promotion playoffs at this time of year, for both men’s and women’s competitions. I haven’t this year for the simple reason that my car has started playing up on long trips. I’m hopefully getting that sorted out this week so I can start heading down the line for the National Women’s League on a fairly regular basis… But in the meantime, with women’s games in Whangarei and Rotorua as well as the first leg of this match-up being at the home of ‘the villagers’, today’s second leg in Auckland was the first and last playoff game I’ll get to see in 2016 sadly.

I say sadly because by all accounts I’ve missed some good football. The first leg of this tie, in particular, looked like it was a classic. Lynn Avon led by a goal to nil throughout despite heavy pressure from the home side, until Ngongotaha snatched the lead in the 90th minute and then got a winner deep into injury time. So this return fixture was set up beautifully.

As a rule I usually barrack for the WaiBOP team in situations like this, and today was set to be no different until I have to say my enjoyment of the game was all but ruined before it even kicked off. I was walking passed a group of Ngongotaha fans when they chose that moment to loudly and repeatedly call the Lynn Avon team “homos”. This immediately switched my allegiance to Lynn Avon. Unfortunately though, as we all know, as well as being a bit of a politically correct wanker, I’m also a serial jinx.

Despite Lynn Avon starting the stronger of the two sides, and also supplying the first real chance of the game as a shot cannoned off the woodwork, they were destined to concede an early away goal with only 15 minutes gone. Even at that point it felt like a tough ask for the homeish (they were playing about ten minutes’ drive away from their home ground) side to come back from that blow but they did so within just a few minutes to level the scores back up at 1-1. Unfortunately though, two Ngongotaha goals in the 35th and 40th minutes effectively ended the contest before half time.

Lynn Avon needed to score four goals to win it from there and everybody at Parrs Park, even the skateboarders over on the far side of the 24 hectare public space, knew that was almost certainly out of the question. So the second half was a bit of a yawn to be quite honest. I have to admit I spent a good chunk of it looking up local government election results and relaying them to a couple of my friends who happened to be there and who I know care about these things as much as I do…

Special congratulations, if I may digress slightly, must go to new Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and to my good friend Richard Hills – who subject to special votes is a new Auckland Councillor on the North Shore. Which is amazing considering the Shore is usually the sort of place where they use lefties like Richard and I for target practice… Also a special mention to kick-ass footballer for both Knockout Cup winners Forrest Hill Milford and defending National Women’s League champions Northern Football, Tessa Berger – who is newly elected to Rodney Local Board! Three particularly great results on a very good day for my political persuasion.

But back to football! Ngongotaha made it four on the day around about the hour mark, and Lynn Avon grabbed a consolation goal deep into injury time to complete the day’s action.

A comprehensive win for the WaiBOP side in the end. The Waikato Bay of Plenty’s third playoff win over Auckland opposition from the last four such encounters with Claudelands, Fury and Nongie coming up in recent years to the conference’s lone success from Waitemata. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge that the WaiBOP Premiership is a pretty strong league, at least as strong as the Conference if not stronger?

Either way, congratulations Ngongotaha. See you next year. But leave the homophobia at home next time will you please?

Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 2

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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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