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’97: Central’s First Chatham Cup

It’s somehow fitting that Central United mark the 20th anniversary of their first ever Chatham Cup win with another appearance in the final. After all, they marked 10 years in the same manner. I went looking for any footage of the match. I wasn’t disappointed. Thanks to the sterling efforts of Puketiro1 on YouTube, the whole of the second half and extra time were available, albeit on that classic juddery ’90’s VHS.

The 3 – 2 thriller at Park Island was the first Chatham Cup to go into extra time since 1990’s penalty shootout between Mount Wellington and Christchurch United. The cup was delivered by helicopter before the match.

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What a team Central had though. A young, long haired tyro, Ivan Vicelich, found himself vitally involved at the other end of the pitch. Wynton Rufer, just returned from his second and final spell in Germany, still had an imposing presence on the game.

Not that imposing mind you, as Central found themselves down by two goals before ten minutes of the second half were played. Martin Akers banging in a far post header past Peter Evans in goal for Central, a goal sadly not included in the 2nd half + extra time highlights I’ve found.

Their second though is a cup final beauty, with Keith Oliver having had the ball returned to him three times from a corner, striking a sweet one right across the goal and into the far corner of the net. Magic.

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But 2 – 0 is the most dangerous score in football and Central player/coach Billy Harris gambled on bringing on an 18 year old Paul Urlovic for Michael Loftus minutes after Rovers’ second goal, before substituting himself for Urlovic’s brother Mathew with just over 20 minutes of the game remaining.

It paid off, the effervescent Vicelich striding forward before foxing a defender into allowing him to square the ball for Urlovic to power in, top corner, with Hunwick powerless to stop it. 75 minutes gone, 2 – 1, game on.

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It took another minute from kickoff for Central to draw level, and the prodigial son of New Zealand football, although at 36 son might be pushing it, placed a neat shot home after the Rovers’ defence had overcommitted to the lively Urlovic.

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Extra time was required to separate the two sides and in the second half of extra time, Urlovic struck again after Rovers had conceded possession near the half way line. Again the goal came from the right hand side as Matt Fowler broke clear onto a long ball. The angle was tight and Hunwick spread himself, but the gap between the keeper and the post was enough for the Sandringham striker.

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The final few minutes were tense with Rovers seeking an equaliser. Eventually the whistle blew and Central United claimed their first ever trophy. They would go on to retain the cup the following season, and win it again in 2005, 2007 and 2012.

And perhaps in 2017.

Categories: NZ Chatham Cup

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John Palethorpe

John Palethorpe lives in South Auckland which is very far away from Fratton Park and Champion Hill. Having been told there was no football in New Zealand, he was delighted to find that there is.

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