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There’s no place like home

WaiBOP 2, Capital 2
John Kerkhof Park, Cambridge, October 16 2016

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Well, National Women’s League 2016 is up and running!

My first game of the new summer season was the now traditional WaiBOP vs Capital season opener, and this time it really felt like a homecoming.  Because WaiBOP’s base this year is John Kerkhof Park in Cambridge, which was also WaiBOP United’s base for its first season in the men’s national league – and the folks here really know the meaning of ‘home’. It appears as though with the federation no longer running the local Stirling Sports Premiership franchise, they have turned all their attention to their flagship women’s team and the match day experience today was genuinely reminiscent of that golden WaiBOP United season that I have written about so fondly.

The chequered flags were up all over the ground, there was a healthy crowd in attendance, which including a percussion section. There was a ground announcer, music, and while there was no ‘Good George’ beer tent, there was Josh Easby offering every single person in the crowd a delicious piece of fruit slice in your choice of apple or apricot!

It doesn’t get any more ‘home’ than that. Mainland has a new challenger for the federation that comes closest to treating the women’s game with the respect it deserves.

In my season preview I said that this could be a defining game for these two sides, with both of them likely to be scrapping for fourth or, at a stretch, third. As it turned out, they certainly do seem to be on a similar level! The 2-2 draw, on balance, was a fair reflection of the contest.

Both teams enjoyed their spells of dominance. Overall WaiBOP looked more potent on attack and more shaky in defence, while Capital were more even and solid across the pitch.

Around the 20 minute mark I was busy tweeting that WaiBOP were looking good when the inevitable happened and I looked like a total plonker because Capital took the lead after a bit of defensive wobbliness from WaiBOP resulted in Emily Morison pouncing on an easy finish.

Fortunately my blushes were saved when a Leah Gubb scorcher on the volley restored the equilibrium in short order. Then, about five minutes before the break, Leanna Ryan was brought down right on the edge of the penalty area to give Serena Murrihy an opportunity from the spot that she executed to perfection. 2-1 was the half time score.

WaiBOP should really have put the game away in the first twenty minutes of the first half but they couldn’t quite land the killer blow, and they were punished for it when more dodgy defensive work saw Katie Barrott send a shot trickling over the line to level things back up at two apiece. The two teams then traded more blows with Leanna Ryan and Kim Maguire both spurning chances at the WaiBOP end while Michaela Robertson wreaked havoc at Capital’s – if you’re looking for a player of the match I reckon you could do a lot worse than the pint-sized Capital number 4.

But it was to no avail. The scores remained locked when the final whistle blew.

The other games went to form with Mainland dispatching Auckland 4-1 in Pakuranga and Northern overcoming Central 3-0 in Palmerston North. So on we go to the next round when Auckland and Northern play under lights at North Harbour on Friday night, and on Sunday Capital host Central in Petone and Southern have a tough first game at English Park…

I’ll be at the ‘battle of the bridge’ – don’t expect much in the way of photos though as my record under lights speaks for itself… I’ll be dreaming of November 6th back at John Kerkhof where WaiBOP will have another season defining clash – this time vs Auckland with Helen Arjomandi, who was unavailable for this game, back in red! It can’t come soon enough for me.

Categories: NZ Women's National League

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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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