Hamilton Wanderers 6, Hawkes Bay United 4
Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, December 18 2016
(Title shamelessly pilfered from Grant Stantiall)
Some might say I was unduly harsh on Hamilton Wanderers last week. It was the first time I had ever seen them play in the Stirling Sports Premiership and, based on past experience with Waikato football fandom, I was worried that the old adage of ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’ was ringing all too true. What a difference a week makes!
Rather than taking a decade or more for me to see Wanderers win a game, it took exactly one week. And that’s not even the most monumental thing about yesterday! The best story by far was the fact that it has taken the Waikato’s newest National League entity only a few months to break through the glass ceiling and do what nobody else from Mooloo football land has ever achieved before them – win a national league.
A one nil win over Hawkes Bay United in Napier was enough to secure the National Youth League title – a fantastic achievement, one that warms the cockles of my heart and gives everyone hope for the future. When the kids graduate, assuming they all stay with the club, we will have a grown-up team to be reckoned with. Not that we don’t have one already! In that judgement, the 6-4 senior victory in Hamilton yesterday was exhibit A.
And, as an added bonus, after the morning I had watching Roma go down 1-0 to BLOODY JUVENTUS it was certainly therapeutic to watch a team in black and white stripes suffer a defeat like Hawkes Bay did…
It was a funny old game. Wanderers appeared to come out firing, perhaps smarting from last week’s defeat to the Weenix. Godwin Darkwa grabbed the lead inside the first 20 minutes, but Hawkes Bay managed to find an equaliser via Saul Halpin not long before the break.
Then all hell broke loose in the second half!
A 49th minute Wanderers penalty conceded by Sean Liddicoat, who also recieved a second yellow card for his trouble, was converted by Bailey Webster. Then Marc Evans doubled the advantage five minutes later and at that point the home side appeared to be in complete control. But there was still a lot of time left on the clock, and while a week is a long time in football so is half an hour…
10 minutes after the Evans goal it was 3-2 and then 3-3 in quick succession courtesy of a rapid fire Sam Mason-Smith brace. The ten men of Hawkes Bay were cock a hoop and all the momentum was with them. But Wanderers weren’t done yet!
Just six minutes after the equaliser was struck, Raymond Gunemba grabbed the lead back for Wanderers and this time it was theirs to keep. Sam Redwood took us to 5-3 and the two goal cushion survived until injury time when, after another Hawkes Bay sending off (Fin Milne), Jack Salter made it a three goal cushion. Ben Eversen potted a consolation goal for the visitors right before the final whistle to complete the scoring.
My fellow photographer Grant Stantiall (who didn’t have to pay to get in either…) quipped to a few of us mulling around the sidelines after the match that ten goals was a rather good return on investment for anyone who paid the $10 entry fee. At a dollar a goal, as well as two Hawkes Bay Lazarus-like comebacks before the locals got the highly entertaining win, one hopes that a fair few of those paying spectators will be back for the next game – ideally with a few friends in tow!
Friends or no friends (most likely the latter, let’s face it) I’ll certainly be at Trusts to watch the mighty Wanderers in action again, this time against the mortal enemy – Waitakere – cue menacing music – on January 15. Now THERE is a monkey that needs shooting off my back! Can’t wait.
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.