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Good things happen when you least expect them

Northern 2, WaiBOP 3
North Harbour Stadium, Auckland, November 27 2016

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I just…

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Wow.

What can I say?

As I write this, the game finished over two hours ago. I’m at home, I’ve eaten a roast, I’ve edited my photos and now it’s time to write but the fact is I’m still processing what just happened!

After all my time keenly following WaiBOP women’s football (and men’s for that matter), having lived through all the signs of promise followed by disappointments and capitulations, this was a result I never would have picked even in my most optimistic of moods, especially after the first half!

At the break, Northern had scored two goals and WaiBOP were lucky to have scored 0. It simply wasn’t a contest. Anna Leat in the Northern goal might as well have been passing the time by reading a good book or doing Sudoku. There was absolutely nothing football related for her to do that was worth noting.

At the other end, Katie Rood in particular caused absolute mayhem for the WaiBOP defence, and along with Sam Tawharu they both got on the score sheet before twenty minutes were up on the clock. I was absolutely certain that we were heading for a rout. Especially considering Northern were playing into a two goal wind in the first half and there were numerous other opportunities for them to extend their advantage. It should really have been 4 or 5-zip.

But it wasn’t and WaiBOP came out of the sheds looking much better in the second stanza. Leanna Ryan looked lively, but even when she broke through the Northern defence and scored about ten minutes into the half, it still felt like Northern had the game under control. The only thing that made me wonder was the fact that they just kept squandering chance after chance…

I did sense a glimmer of hope that this just might have been one of those situations when a better team is punished for not putting their weaker opposition away…

Time was running out though. With ten minutes left it was obviously too late, wasn’t it? Northern still had most of the ball. You can’t score goals unless you get some kind of possession… But then, Leanna Ryan found herself in space once again, she neatly dissected the Northern defence and just like that we were all square!

GET IN!!! YOU LITTLE RIPPER!!!!!

Into injury time we went, and there was four minutes of it! Four sodding minutes!!! Still plenty of time for our hearts to be broken just like they always are…..

Could we beat all the odds and somehow hold on by the tips of our fingernails for an incredible upset draw?????

No, we couldn’t. We could do better than that!

It was Ryan again who found herself in space, but just as she was about to coolly complete her hattrick, in dived Tessa Berger with one of her trademark interventions to send the ball out for a corner…

In it curled, into the mixer, where it found the head of Hannah Reid, and in at the far post it went – GOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLLL!!!!!!

WaiBOP hearts were still in our mouths as Northern furiously tried to get back to parity. They even found the back of the net, and everyone in the ground thought it was a goal, but the lino had other ideas! It was offside.

And with that, for the first time since they made the final in 2011, back when it was the Women’s Youth League, and they lost to Northern in the final by the way, WaiBOP are semifinalists in 2016.

In my season preview back in October, I predicted Northern to finish the regular season in first, Canterbury in second, Auckland third, Capital fourth, followed by WaiBOP, Central, and Southern.

If Northern had won today the only thing I would have been wrong about was Auckland’s underachievement. Everything else would have been in the order I predicted.

But look at how ten minutes of football can transform players and bloggers alike from hero to zero!

Because instead we have ended up with Canterbury, Capital and WaiBOP all level on points at the top of the ladder, separated by some bizarre tie-breaker system that only the boffins at New Zealand Football understand. Northern is fourth, then it’s Auckland, Central and Southern.

With that, Capital will host WaiBOP in the Preliminary Final next week, then Canterbury will host the winner of that in the final a week later – it’s their title to lose, despite their even more bizarre draw with Central today.

I am over the moon, thrilled, ecstatic, pumped and every other adjective you can think of to be proved wrong once again by WaiBOP exceeding my glum expectations, and I suspect they even exceeded their own today.

The downside is that this is almost certainly season over for me as far as the National Women’s League is concerned. My Auckland mortgage is tight at the moment and my car needs four new tyres to get a WOF so flying off around the country is out of the question for me right now I’m afraid.

Therefore I will follow with interest from afar!

It’s a pity because I love this league SO MUCH!!! And that’s not just the euphoria of today talking. I can’t believe it’s over already.

I hope one day soon we will get more of it. Surely a double round robin home and away is on the cards as the next logical progression. Point me in the direction of whoever is standing in the way of this and I will give them a piece of my mind!!

But either way, I am already looking forward to next year.

And once more with feeling – WAIBOP WHEN YOU CAN BOOGIEEEEEEEEEE!

Categories: NZ Women's National League

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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