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Hope springs eternal

Western Springs 2, Claudelands Rovers 0
Seddon Fields, Auckland, April 30 2017

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It’s almost May and this is the first time I have watched a Hamilton team play in the NRFL this season. That’s all down to a little thing the pros like to call ‘self-control’. If I was totally selfish I’d follow my favourite clubs every week, but that wouldn’t be fair on anyone. It wouldn’t be fair on the teams that miss out on my sparkling personality on the sidelines, and it wouldn’t be fair on the clubs from the city I grew up in – who do tend to lose whenever I’m in their general vicinity.

Today, however, I couldn’t resist jinxing I mean catching up with Claudelands Rovers. The truth is I have been waiting for an opportunity to see them play for ages – I would have been at the Derby della Tron at Porritt Stadium on Good Friday if it hadn’t been rained off.

Because while it feels like an eternity since I’ve seen Rovers in action, it’s a mere fraction of the time that club legend and former Football Fern Sarah McLaughlin has spent on the sidelines due to successive injuries – the best part of four years by my calculations.

Last time I saw ‘Macca’ play was back in 2014 when she made a brief comeback between her first ACL rupture and her second. Before that she was a standout player in practically every match of hers I’ve watched. It’s obviously still a long road back, but for the moment it’s just great to see her out there after what I can only imagine must have been an excruciating time in her life.

Her team were unbeaten going into this game, albeit after just two matches following a bye and the aforementioned postponed derby. They have notched up a nice 3-0 win against Forrest Hill Milford and a healthy 8-zip shellacking of Northland, but this was always likely to be a tougher test against Rico Wilson’s experienced Western Springs side.

I doubt anybody would be fooled by the Celtic lookalikes’ low table position. Their first two games were against arguably the best two sides in the competition so it was always going to be a tough start, one that they are now bouncing back from nicely.

Claudelands started this match well and wouldn’t have looked out of place with a 1-0 lead early on. Age group international Michaela Foster was deployed a fair bit as an attacking weapon down the left and looked well capable of sparking something. But as the match wore on Springs started to dominate a bit more and they underlined that in the 35th minute when Rebecca O’Neil netted from the penalty spot to send her troops into the sheds with a one goal advantage. And their lead could have been greater if at least one near miss late in the second half had found its target.

Claudelands had a few opportunities to get themselves back into the contest early in the second stanza, most notably from two long range strikes that, irritatingly for them, found the woodwork. At the other end, the ‘hoops’ just probed away at their opponents’ defences until Lauren Mathis was eventually released into enough space in front of goal to slam home her side’s second goal in the 70th minute and, despite the red team’s dogged efforts that followed, it was effectively goodnight nurse at that juncture.

So my record watching Waikato teams, men and women, didn’t improve today. But never fear – call it ESP, but I have a real feeling that the day is fast approaching when my luck will turn. I can feel it in my bones. Just as soon as they reschedule that derby…

Categories: NZ Northern Women's Premier

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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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