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Kings no more?

Eastern Suburbs 2, Three Kings 0
Madills Farm, Auckland, May 7 2017

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It’s only been three short weeks since I was last at Madills Farm but, in the intervening time, change has been afoot. Green has been replaced by orange as the predominant hue of the surrounding deciduous trees – a sure sign that we are inching closer towards the dreaded depths of winter. And as the idea of flickering fires, thick duvets and hot soup suddenly begin to feel more luxurious than ludicrous, things have also started to become much clearer in the various races for Northern League football supremacy.

In Women’s Premier, two top contenders have opened up a gap on the chasing pack. Before today, both Three Kings United and Eastern Suburbs were sitting on perfect records that date back to years previous. Last year’s runners up, Suburbs, last tasted defeat on July 3 2016 – a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of none other than today’s opposition.

Three Kings, meanwhile, enjoyed a perfect season last year and haven’t had a blot on their league copybook since a 3-2 loss to Forrest Hill Milford way back in early June 2015.

It would be difficult to argue then, that this wasn’t a clash between the two best women’s club football teams in New Zealand at the moment. The only question mark might be how either might go against Upper Hutt, who made a huge statement in the Central Region’s ‘W-League’ yesterday. They destroyed a very good Wellington United side 7-0 in a match that Sarah Gregorius netted six times in. It will be very interesting when they almost certainly eventually find themselves up against Northern opposition in the Women’s Knockout Cup…

But as for this game, just as green has changed to orange in the surrounding foliage, so too has green changed to white at the top of the NRFL Women’s Premier points table.

Earlier in the day I was asked on Twitter if either of these two sides had a player who could blow their opposition off the park in the way Greggas did 24 hours earlier. I thought that if there was such a player in this game, it would be Aimee Phillips. And six minutes in, I was feeling rather smug about that call when Jacqui Hand made a run down the left and popped a cross past a couple of defenders  and the keeper. It was met at the far post by a flying Phillips, who steered home to grab a sharply taken 1-0 advantage for the Lilywhites.

But despite the super early lead for Suburbs, there would be no subsequent emulation of Welington’s one sided high scoring affair. Following the goal this game quickly settled into two very good and very evenly matched sides going at each other for 90 minutes in a high octane, high standard tussle that was thoroughly absorbing from start to finish.

The only thing it lacked, that would have made it a real classic, was a Three Kings equaliser before the final Eastern Suburbs blow was struck but, as it was, the defending champions ended up finding it prohibitively difficult to break down the well organised Suburbs defence.

The home side eventually put the game to bed with ten minutes left to play. Hand was the ultimate beneficiary of a melee in the box that had already seen a Phillips shot blocked before hers. Her goal made sure that her side would enjoy a victory that now sees them in pole position to win the title.

There’s still a long way to go of course, but this Suburbs side has been truly impressive both times I’ve seen them so far this year and really will take some beating from here.

Categories: NZ Northern Women's Premier

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

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