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WaiBOP say cherry-bye to playoff hopes

WaiBOP 1, Capital 4
John Kerkhof Park, Cambridge, November 5 2017

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There’s something quite symbolic about the timing of National Women’s League games at Cambridge’s John Kerkhof Park. Every year without fail the first game of the season is scheduled for a week when the dozens of pink cherry blossom trees that line Vogel Street are in full bloom. It truly is a magnificent sight.

Then, when one pulls up to the ground for the second fixture of the WaiBOP home calendar a fortnight later, things have invariably gone downhill. The volatile spring weather has taken its toll. About 70% of the blooms are now on the ground mixed with mud and grass clippings while the other 30% left on the trees are looking decidedly tired and wilted.

Yep, you know where this is going…

After arriving at that first fixture with blossoming hopes for a great season for Waikato and Bay of Plenty football lovers, by the second home game things don’t often look overly flash on that front either.

Last year was an exception to this. While WaiBOP got off to their customary slow start in 2016, they grew and grew as the season wore on. This culminated in a semi-final appearance, and a season only cut short by a penalty shootout loss to yesterday’s opponents.

That relative success certainly added to those aforementioned blossoming hopes in 2017.

But unfortunately this time that upward trajectory, while certainly visible in the team’s on-field performances, hasn’t translated onto the points table and after this result we are now at the stage where there is only pride (the actual thing not the team from Canterbury) left to play for.

And they will have to beat Central in their last home fixture (when any remaining cherry blossoms at all will be looking even sadder) to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.

Not that their season is a complete write-off to date. Particular bright spots in this match were individual performances from wing back Tiana Hill and goalkeeper Amanda Wilshier.

Hill was given a tall task for a young player – marking retired Football Fern and former Liverpool striker Sarah Gregorius – and I thought she did an amazing job coming up with some stunning tackles to thwart some dangerous attacks and generally making a nuisance of herself.

Meanwhile Wilshier, who has come along in leaps and bounds since I saw her play last year, can take some real credit for ensuring that the score line wasn’t worse than it turned out to be. She saved a penalty off the boot of Gregorius and came up huge in some hairy situations – particularly towards the end when WaiBOP were leaving themselves exposed at the back as they chased the game.

Unfortunately though, Capital just had too much class. A goal in each half from Maggie Jenkins, one each in the first half for Maya Hahn and Gregoius respectively as well as a penalty save for Cushla Lichtwark saw the visitors home.

Leanna Ryan’s thoroughly well-deserved first half strike was all the home side had to show for their afternoon’s toil when the final whistle sounded. Beaten by a better side. You can’t do much about that I guess.

Still, when you look across Cook Strait to Southern United – competition easy beats for so long, claiming their second massive scalp of the season against the Pride to go joint top of the league – I can’t help but feel a little bit envious of what they have achieved with their often lamented scarcity of resources.

It just goes to show that, with a professional outlook and determination in approach, deficits in other areas can be overcome! A lesson that other franchises should be analysing in the coming months between now and when those trees start budding again.

After all, the whole point of blossoms is when the petals fall off the tree bears fruit.

Categories: NZ Women's National League

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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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