Northern 4, Auckland 3
North Harbour Stadium, Auckland, October 22 2016
I have to admit that my heart sank when I saw the draw for the first time and this fixture presented itself. Because the National Women’s League does not contain a development side this year, most weekends only have one fixture in the upper North Island that I can realistically attend, and this week’s lone possibility was under lights on a Friday night.
I normally avoid floodlit games like the plague because they are universally impossible for me to take good photos at. But unlike during the winter when there are 5,348 other matches to choose from, my unyielding October/November commitment to prioritising the women’s side of the summer game meant I just had to swallow a big old cup of harden the **** up and do the best I could to get the job done on this occasion.
One thing was for sure though, if this was to be anything other than a complete waste of time, using my own camera in these conditions was not an option. Thankfully I have a great friend who has a Canon 5D Mark II that sometimes, if I ask very nicely, I can get a loan of.
The net result of this was that miraculously I did end up with some usable pictures, despite the fact that the lights at North Harbour aren’t of the highest standard particularly with only one bulb working in the Eastern corner! But take note organisers of night games – this doesn’t mean I like you!!
As for the contest out on the pitch, it was a crushing victory that almost wasn’t.
Looking at the scoreline alone, you might be forgiven for thinking that this was a real thriller of a match. It wasn’t particularly. At least not in the sense that the result was ever in doubt.
Before the game, Northern’s media man Mike Hadnett asked for a score prediction. I said 3-1 to Northern. That turned out to be the half time score. Does that make me half right? Either way, well before the sun set and the less than adequate floodlights took over, it became clear that I had low-balled it.
By circa the fifteen minute mark Northern had a two goal lead courtesy of Jane Barnett and Katie Rood and there were multiple chances for that cushion to get much more comfortable.
The visitors did pull one back via their star forward Jacquie Hand, but it was very much against the run of play and when Rood got her second just after the half hour mark normal service appeared to have resumed.
Auckland did seem a lot more competitive after the half time break though, as they enjoyed some nice spells applying pressure to the Northern defence. It didn’t stop Sam Tawharu from extending the home side’s lead to three goals with about 25 minutes left in the match, but that was the extent of the damage for Auckland, albeit somewhat fortuitously!
Tessa Leong struck for the visitors in the 78th minute to take us to 4-2, and when Annie Byrne’s 90th minute goal slipped through the clutches of Anna Leat it gave us a close game on paper but despite their laudable second half display of character it wasn’t enough to bridge the gap in quality between these two sides.
Special mention from this game also needs to go to referee Sarah Jones. Tomorrow night at Westpac Stadium she will become the first New Zealand woman to be an Assistant Referee in an A-League fixture. Congratulations Sarah, and good luck! I covered what I believe was Sarah’s NRFL refereeing debut back in 2012 and it has been a pleasure to watch her career ever since!
Next week, Northern have a trip to the Deep South where it will be out of the frying pan and into the fire for Southern, who will be coming off their tough 2016 debut vs Canterbury at English Park tomorrow. Tomorrow also sees Capital finishing off round two by entertaining Central, who will in turn entertain WaiBOP fresh off the bye next weekend.
The good news for Auckland is they have now played both of the competition heavyweights in rounds one and two! It gets much easier from here, starting with a home game vs Capital at William Green Domain next week – a fixture they should be well capable of winning to set them on the semi-final path despite their current position at the foot of the table. I’ll be there! So too should you.
Categories: NZ Women's National League
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.