Birkenhead 0, Onehunga Sports 3
Shepherd’s Park, Auckland, August 6 2017
I’m sorry but I have to start this with a gripe.
There were four national cup quarter finals set down for Auckland this weekend – two in the New Zealand Women’s Knockout Cup and two in the Chatham Cup. Saturday was the first fine weekend day in goodness knows how long, while Sunday had rain forecast for the afternoon.
So, given the above paragraph, here’s the easiest brain teaser in the history of the universe: When do you think all four big football games were crammed into one three hour time period this weekend? I’ll give you one guess…
Ok, you can’t predict the weather when these things are set down and it’s generally entirely up to the clubs to sort these things out. But what kind of gaddam system for setting fixtures makes no effort to spread them out a little bit? Maybe I am the only sad bastard who would have gone to all four of these games if I could, but some others might have gone to two? At the very least an option to get to a women’s game as well as a men’s might have been useful…
With neither Birkenhead nor Onehunga Sports hailing from outside the City of Sails, there should have been no reason why this game couldn’t have been played, in the sun, on Saturday.
Now, normally in situations like this I go to a women’s game as a matter of principle. But today I set my feminist principles aside. Because, you know, Birko…
As a matter of interest, before the game I asked Birkenhead coach Paul Hobson if there would be flares today (as there sometimes are at Shepherd’s Park) and he pointed out that they bring bad luck. I thought that was hogwash, but nonetheless I wasn’t expecting to see any.
But low and behold as the teams walked out there were a couple planted in the ground at the northern end… And, after Birko’s subsequent performance, I’m starting to wonder if Hobbo’s superstition might not be somewhat warranted!
It promised to be the match of the round. With first vs second in the Northern League going head to head it would have been a fitting final, but in the end it didn’t really live up to that promise. Birko would probably be the first to admit that they weren’t anywhere near their best. Meanwhile Sports showed that they are not leading NRFL Men’s Premier by eleven points by accident.
Unusually, all the goals were scored in referee’s time added on to both halves.
The game’s opener, a Sean Lovemore slash through a defender to beat an unsighted Damo Hirst, came in the second minute of injury time at the end of a 45 minutes that had seen Sports create more than their candy cane rivals.
At the end Birko were attacking, the main talking point was a running battle between Ethan Galbraith and Sports defender Joseph Dawkins. Things between the two of them got rather ugly at one point and after that the grudge could be observed simmering away at regular intervals until Galbraith had to be subbed off in the second half. It was either that or a red card for the Birko striker would have been more likely than ham at Christmas.
The home side didn’t seem to wake up until about 20 minutes to go, when they all too briefly looked like making a game of it but they couldn’t find a way past Sports goalie Louie Caunter.
If it had finished 1-0, even though the better team would still have won, it would have been a bit tough for the defending cup holders to crash out due to such an ugly goal. Therefore it was probably for the best when, once again in the second minute of stoppage time, Andrew Milne won and converted a spot kick to put their opponents to bed. And after that they still found time to tuck them in and read them a lullaby when Jordan Vale slotted their third to complete the scoring in the fifth minute of time added on.
And with that, Onehunga Sports are on course for a rare double. They find themselves semi-finalists for only the second time in their history, and regardless of who they face they will be warm favourites to march on to their first ever final appearance.
As for me, good luck to ‘the Green Machine’ but if there’s a Women’s Knockout Cup game in Auckland on at the same time – that’s where I’ll be.
Categories: NZ Chatham Cup
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.