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Match of the round

Western Springs 1, Glenfield Rovers 2
Seddon Fields, Auckland, June 25 2017

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The gender balance of my football watching has been a bit out lately. Lots of men’s games and not enough women’s games. I am suitably ashamed of myself, you can rest assured.

Last weekend saw a nice opportunity to begin to redeem myself though. The New Zealand Women’s Knockout Cup round of 16 was being played, every fit player from the Football Ferns Development Programme was available, and there was lots to be excited about in a great looking match-up on the turf at Seddon Fields!

This was a rematch of the 2007 final. On that day, Western Springs prevailed to lift the trophy for the first and only time in their club’s history – defeating Glenfield 2-1.

But, a decade on from that, there can be no doubt that Glenfield are THE competition heavyweights of recent years. Three times champions, they have appeared in the last four finals – two of which they emerged victorious from.

As for this year, I was picking a two or three goal win for Glenfield on Sunday just based on their young and capable looking line-up that contained a couple of pleasant surprises for me when I saw it.

One of those was Hannah Hoeksema, who I don’t believe I have seen play for a good few years. It was a real privilege to see the superb age-group international in action again on a break from her US College – the University of North Carolina. It sure didn’t hurt Glenfield’s chances to have “proper keeper” Anna Leat on their team either. Last I heard Anna was playing men’s football this winter.

But there was a lot of wily experience blended with talented youth in the Springs line-up as well, and only two points separate these two sides on the league table so this was never going to be a walk in the park for either one of them.

They both had everything to play for too. Neither of them have a realistic chance of winning the NRFL unless both Three Kings and Eastern Suburbs drop points to teams that have shown no signs of being capable of taking anything off them so far.

For once it seemed I had picked the match of the round!

As it happened, Glenfield looked the stronger side out there a lot of the time but Springs pushed them hard and weren’t lacking opportunities. Perhaps the best of them was a one on one situation early in the first half between Sam Muirhead and Leat that the young keeper came out of smelling of roses – pulling off one of the best saves I can recall seeing this year to stop the home side from drawing first blood.

Unfortunately for Springs, all the real damage to their cause was inflicted not long after that, in the space of a brutal three minutes when both Tessa Berger and Katie Rood (the NZWKOC’s all-time leading goal-scorer) netted – the former from long range and the latter from very close range – to take us into the break with a 2-0 lead to the visitors.

Springs pushed as hard as they could in the second half and were unlucky not to come away with more to show for it. In particular they had a massive shout for a penalty that I was unable to judge with any authority but the players looked irate enough for their cries to have had some validity to them – in my experience female footballers don’t do histrionics without a good case to plead.

Justice was served a short time later though, when Elaine Murray finally got herself on the scoresheet from open play to halve the deficit.

After that, Springs threw everything they had at trying to obtain an equaliser but it wasn’t enough. Glenfield had their chances too, but I’m quite glad they didn’t extend their lead. The more comfortable win that I had initially predicted would definitely have been unjust in the final wash!

2-1 to Rovers was probably a fair reflection of the contest as much as I wouldn’t have minded an extra half hour of it!

Now, going forward (to coin an insufferable phrase that is migrating into the sporting world from the realm of corporate bullshit) I’ve just seen the draw for the next round, and both of the Northern fixtures are extremely tasty indeed! Glenfield take on FHM in a repeat of last year’s final; and 1v2 in the league will meet each other when Eastern Suburbs take on Three Kings.

Please allow me to get in early and suggest that it would be great if the kick-off times for these could be staggered so that I and others could get along to both!

In fact, let’s take that a step further. Playing them as a double header at the same venue would be a fantastic advertisement for the women’s game… So how about it NZF and the clubs involved?

I promise I’m not just asking because I want a double helping of women’s football to help the gender balance of my football watching over the next month or so. Well, not ONLY because of that anyway…

Categories: NZ Women's KO Cup

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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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