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Top of the (infla-)table

Manukau City 3, Takapuna 2
Walter Massey Park, Auckland, August 21 2017

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(Credit for the title goes to Phil Clayton)

On Friday night I broke my golden rule of never going to night games, because I was expecting a trophy presentation. I didn’t get to see one because Forrest Hill Milford spoiled the party (more on that in another post) but this disaster was rectified on Sunday when Manukau City met Takapuna in the AFF/NFF Women’s Championship! I didn’t get to see silverware then either, but instead I got to see something better.

As I said last week, I was planning to go to this game that Sunday but it was postponed by seven days. Ever since then I have been determined not to miss it, so here I was.

There were two reasons.

The first reason was because I love Manukau City as a club. With their women’s first team doing so well I really wanted to be there for the last game of their incredibly successful 2017 even though the title is already wrapped up and their promotion to the 2018 Conference had already been secured.

The second reason was because I bought a t-shirt off them and I had to pick it up…

Nonetheless it was a lovely afternoon for football, with the only rain we got being a few spits right on full time. And Walter Massey, which I famously rated a zero out of ten in my State of the Nation pre-season pitch report one year before the new sand carpet was laid, was looking in fine nick despite the need to wade through ankle deep mud to get anywhere near it.

And, apart from chasing trophies, the other theme of my football watching weekend was two goal leads not being enough.

The visitors shocked the league leaders not once but twice in the early stages of this game, aided and abetted by some untidy goalkeeping in the form of a fumble that resulted in a scramble that led to an own goal and then a speculative effort from Takapuna’s Alice Bennett that was spilled in.

But here’s the best bit. Any other team with the title and promotion safely in the bank that concedes two goals in a dead rubber can probably be forgiven by pinko liberal softies like me for not really caring at that point. Not City though. They showed real character and desire to keep fighting like their season depended on it and go out on a high.

The champions’ first goal came via Jeanne Heatherington with about five minutes left to play in the first half. Then, in the second stanza, they just kept knocking on the door to the point where the Josephine Ane equaliser that arrived at around about the hour mark had just been a matter of time.

The comeback was completed with a magnificent winner from Hetherington who, with about ten minutes left on the clock, lofted a five iron high and long that brushed the outstretched fingertips of the keeper (who was off her line) on its way into the back of the net.

Takapuna still had a few tricks up their sleeves and it took some sharp work between the sticks by the Manukau keeper, who more than redeemed herself for those two first half lapses, to preserve both the three points and the ability to fully celebrate a great season unmuted.

There was no trophy on hand, no medals, no official corflute, no pomp or ceremony from AFF, but this is South Auckland – where everyone is used to making the best of what they have.

Coach Ricky Espinoza dashed into the clubrooms at full time and when he re-emerged it was with a blow-up novelty trophy, which the team duly held aloft like it was Old Big Ears.

Give me that over some posh club lifting a real trophy any day!

Categories: Other NZ Federation Leagues

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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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