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Glenfield Rovers 0, Birkenhead United 4
McFetridge Park, Auckland, June 5 2017

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It has been suggested, on one or two… hundred occasions, that I am a one eyed Birkenhead United supporter. Or as one contributor to the Northern League Forum once put it after Birko gave me a shirt to wear at a Chatham Cup tie… “He’s anyone’s for a replica shirt and a hotdog.”

For the record, I never got my hotdog and I say this to the despicable human being who must have eaten it before it found its way to me: Thanks for looking out for my cholesterol.

Also for the record I say this: Yes, I like Birkenhead as a club a great deal, that’s no secret. But I do not and will not buy into some of the pettiness that surrounds football in this country. Just because I like Birkenhead does not mean I hate their fierce rivals Glenfield Rovers. I don’t particularly dislike any football club in New Zealand. I save all my footballing vitriol up for Lazio.

So when I was challenged on Twitter to wear a Rovers shirt to every game I go to for the rest of the season if Glenfield had won yesterday, I had no hesitation in taking the bet! I do confess to a little bit of nervousness at what my good friends at Shepherds Park would have said to me if I’d had to go through with it. But stuff it. What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander.

I have been looking forward to this game ever since the draw was made. What were the odds of these two particular Premier Division clubs drawing each other in the first round of Chatham Cup 2017 that they were participating in? Birkenhead, second in the league, reigning cup holders. Glenfield, third in the league, league champions three years ago. For both these sides, losing was unthinkable. That had to make for a great clash.

Glenfield were slight underdogs in most people’s estimations going in despite the 1-1 draw the two sides played out in the league five weeks ago. The main reason for this is that while both clubs played league fixtures two days prior, Birkenhead rested all but one of their players – goalkeeper Damo Hirst. Glenfield took no such precautions as far as I’m aware and unfortunately for them they picked up three red cards and thus three suspensions for this game.

Having said that, I still expected a close match. Games this important fought out between two teams that dislike each other this much are usually close without even mentioning the ultimate football cliché… ‘the magic of the cup’.

This time, however, the Magic went back to just being a netball team based in Hamilton and this game turned out to be quite one sided.

Birkenhead took the lead in the 7th minute when their impressive Japanese import with J-League experience – Yuki Ohtsuka – got on the end of a failed clearance from Glenfield keeper Michael O’Keefe that had ballooned up in the air and come down by the left hand upright.

Birkenhead thought they had extended their lead twice in quick succession not long after the opening goal. Once when there was some debate over whether the ball had crossed the line and again when there was no debate about that whatsoever but the offside flag was raised instead.

There was no debate at all in the 37th minute though, when Ryan Cain slammed home an absolute screamer. 2-0 was the half time score.

The game was effectively ended as a contest in the 65th minute when the bandaged head (from an earlier clash with O’Keefe) of Ethan Galbraith nodded home a free kick to move the score to 3-zip. Christian Gray then finished things off with five minutes left in regulation time.

If you ask me what the key to the outcome of the match was, I wouldn’t necessarily point to Glenfield being short staffed. Their line-up was still rather impressive looking on paper. I think the difference was that Birkenhead looked more composed. Glenfield looked wound up too tight – maybe placing too much emphasis on beating the opposition and not enough on playing their best football.

And as a result, the reigning cup holders march on! And I don’t have any new additions to my wardrobe.

Never mind. Glenfield fans shouldn’t be too disappointed that I won’t be wearing their shirt for the next few months. I never said I would go without a jacket for the rest of winter anyway…

Categories: NZ Chatham Cup

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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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