Ranui Swanson 2, West Auckland 1
Starling Park, Auckland, April 1 2017
For the last four years I’ve had a roughly annual tradition of paying homage to my local football club – that is, the nearest one to my house – by attending the closest thing to their season opening game that I have the ability to get to. Prior to 2014, I lived a five minute walk away from Oratia United. But since then I have relegated myself to the Conference by moving to Swanson, with my local now being the mighty Ranui Swanson.
Given their record in the early fixtures I have attended up until now, the Swans could be forgiven for asking Tia to take me back! They lost by one goal to Waitemata in their opening game of 2014, lost by two goals to Glen Eden in 2015 and suffered a three goal defeat last year in the game where I discovered the ultras of Waiheke United. On that basis they were headed for a four goal defeat in their local derby with West Auckland AFC yesterday!
And this may have arguably had a chance of eventuating, at a stretch, if their opposition had managed to keep all eleven of their players on the pitch for the whole game!
The home side had the better of the opening exchanges, looking comfortable probing away at their opponents, but they came unstuck around 12 minutes into the match when, on a rare foray into the Ranui third, one of West Auckland’s most dangerous looking attacking weapons, Axel Naverrete, was brought down inside the area and the referee awarded a penalty. Navarrete was entrusted with the spot kick and he sent the keeper the wrong way to grab the lead for his side.
From that point on I thought West Auckland looked more likely to extend their lead than Ranui did to find the equaliser but the game’s big turning point was yet to come, shortly before half time. West Auckland’s Richard Searle was wrestled to the ground in what looked an awful lot like a headlock, for which the perpetrator received a yellow card, but then Searle was shown a second yellow and an ensuing red for what the referee deemed “retaliation”.
Whether or not there was retaliation I can’t say for sure, Searle and his team mates would certainly argue their case that there was not all the way to the Privy Council, but either way it did seem an unjust state of affairs that the victim of an egregious foul was the one who ended up taking no further part with his team forced to play the entire second half reduced to ten players.
As is often the case when players get sent, the numerically challenged team looked capable of at least preserving their lead for the first twenty minutes or so of the second half, but the pressure eventually told when Jackson Crerar drove home the equaliser for Ranui Swanson and just a few minutes after that James Felipe latched onto a cross at the far post and stabbed home to make it 2-1 to the home side.
There was action at both ends after that. West Auckland had at least three big opportunities in front of goal but missed the target on all three occasions and then, down the other end, Ranui had three similar chances, with two of them cleared off the line by defenders! West Auckland then managed to put one into the auld onion bag in the last five minutes or so of the match, only to see it called back for offside.
One can’t help but wonder what might have been if West Auckland had played the whole match with their full complement of players and whether or not I’m right in surmising that they probably would have won.
Dammit, there’s nothing else for it, I’m just going to have to attend the return fixture now! Such hardship. In the immortal words of Battery Sergeant Major Williams – Oh dear, how sad, never mind.
Categories: NZ AFF/NFF Men's Conference
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.