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The barn, the beach and the butties

Beachlands Maraetai 2, Lynn Avon 2
Te Puru Park, Auckland, June 10 2017

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Sometimes I feel like going out of my way for something a little bit different. When you’ve been to every NRFL ground except one (and I have other plans for the one) at least once and in many cases dozens of times over, it can start to feel a little stale. Glancing down the Northern League draw for this week, there were hardly any combinations of teams playing each other that I haven’t watched before – and in a lot of cases at the same venues! That’s bound to become more and more common the longer I do this and that’s ok. But at the same time I also need to break the mould occasionally in order to stay sane.

So this weekend I turned to the AFF/NFF Conference draw, and decided to go to a part of Auckland I have never been to before in my life, let alone to watch a football game! When I imagined Maraetai in my mind, I thought it was somewhere near Bucklands Beach – and it sort of is if you travel by boat. But by road it’s an hour long journey from my house in the North West, right out to the back of South East Auckland.

It was well worth the trip though!

The first thing I discovered when I arrived at Te Puru Park is that it’s basically paradise – one of the most beautiful settings I have ever watched football in. The club is based in a Leisure Centre shaped like a massive barn overlooking the number one pitch. It’s got two high decks with sweeping views consisting of gorgeous regional parkland from the right all the way around to the Hauraki Gulf and Waiheke Island on the left – which led me to wonder how Waiheke United gets here when they are in the same division. It must be incredibly frustrating if there’s not a direct ferry service when you could almost swim it!

Whether or not it is a convenient trip, Beachlands Maraetai was on course to get it back onto the fixture calendar going into this game (if Waiheke don’t get promoted as well). They were top of the conference with a one point lead over Bucklands Beach and a five point advantage over their opponents yesterday. Fourth placed Lynn Avon are a side that needs no introduction – a former Northern League staple, they only narrowly missed out on a return at the end of last year when they were beaten in the inter-federation playoff by WaiBOP’s Ngongotaha.

And if I had watched this game without knowing the current table positions of these two sides, I probably would have guessed that Lynn Avon were the ones at the summit.

It was an exciting first half with chances at both ends but while Lynn Avon were creating a bit more, their chaotic looking defending on set pieces let them down. They were punished first by Troy Cleave off a free kick just shy of the half hour mark and then again by experienced NRFL White Album (number nine) Zane Christiansen off a corner in minute 37.

Just two minutes after Christiansen’s goal, Lynn Avon finally found their shooting boots when Andrew Mobberley scored to send the teams into the break with the score at 2-1 in favour of the home side.

The barn was shunned by the teams as both coaches elected to conduct their half time team talks out in one of the nice periods of sunshine between the rain showers. I overheard a bit of Lynn Avon coach Jim Booth’s message which basically boiled down to sharpen up – this is ours for the taking.

With the direction of both the sun and rain both coming at us from the West, there was only really one end of the pitch I could stand at to get good photos. Unfortunately in the second half I was left frustrated that I wasn’t getting any decent shots at all as most of the action was confined to the far end where Lynn Avon were attacking – but still, the visiting strike force was struggling to find the net until Bruno Howard finally managed to level the scores with 28 minutes left in the 90.

After the equaliser, the home side tried hard to lift their game and regain their lead both in the game and on the points table but it was too little too late and 2-2 was the final result.

When I got home from my most enjoyable afternoon, I had a read of the match day programme – something I must start getting into the habit of doing before games not after them. Because if I had done that yesterday l would have discovered the note in the president’s column singing the praises of the bacon and egg butties on sale in the barn in time to sample one. Damn! I do love a good bacon and egg butty. Couple that with that magnificent setting and you’ll have to excuse me while I consult the draw to see who they are playing at home next…

Categories: NZ AFF/NFF Men's Conference

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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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