Onehunga Mangere 2, Beachlands Maraetai 0 (OM won 3-1 on aggregate)
McLennan Park, Auckland, March 11 2018
Was it the calm before the storm or the storm after the calm? You be the judge.
As Cyclone Hola hurtled towards New Zealand’s East Coast at breakneck pace leaving destruction in its wake across the Pacific, Papakura was a picture of partly cloudy pleasantness on a cool Sunday evening.
If we had witnessed an extra half hour or more due to a 1-1 scoreline at the end of the 90 minutes on the night, we would have been treated to a truly spectacular sunset as a backdrop to a possible penalty shootout. It would have made for stunning photographs, but Onehunga Mangere were having none of it. In hindsight, perhaps the heavens were welcoming them into the NRFL by painting the sky red!
In my write-up of last week’s game I predicted that one of the two sides would grab this tie by the scruff of the neck in the second leg, I just wasn’t sure which one it would be. I was right and it was the Mountain Men. But not until the second half.
The first half proceeded largely along similar lines to last week with blows traded by both sides but neither of them gaining the advantage. The closest the scorers came to picking up their proverbial pencils was about 25 minutes in when the East Aucklanders found the back of the auld onion bag only for the pesky Assistant Referee on the far side to wave his little flag in the air for offside, spoiling the blue team’s jubilant celebrations that were well underway at the time.
So into the sheds at half time we trundled with the scores locked at nil apiece, just as they were exactly seven days prior.
And also exactly like seven days prior, it was Onehunga Mangere who drew first blood in the second half! This time it was David Carron who latched onto a botched clearance to score fairly close to the hour mark.
Beachlands Maraetai weren’t done yet though, and it took a sharp save from keeper Fergus Connolly to deny us all an extra half hour and the pleasure of that sunset. It was about this time that it all came unravelled for the red team last week, but they weren’t about to let an advantage slip through their fingers again.
Instead Tom Knight headed home to put the result beyond doubt in the dying stages.
Beachlands can consider themselves unlucky, they could easily have gone through and you have to feel for them losing two playoffs in six months – the last one being against Cambridge at the end of last season. However, only one goal in 180 minutes and a fortunate one at that wasn’t ever going to be enough.
Onehunga Mangere deserve their place back in the NRFL just a few short months after their relegation from it. Not only for their performance over two legs but also because they are a great little grassroots club that are an asset to Northern League football.
Form a purely selfish point of view I can’t say I’m sorry to have more trips to Mangere Mountain in store for me in 2018, and it’s a fitting place in a fitting competition for us all to enjoy two former All Whites, including one who has been to World Cups as both a player and assistant coach, passing on their knowledge to future generations and celebrating victories like they won the Chatham Cup final the way they did last night!
Beachlands Maraetai are an awesome little club too though, and I hope they can keep the momentum going so there can be more trips out there for bacon butties in 2019 and beyond! History shows that teams who lose these playoffs tend to find their way into the NRFL themselves eventually. It’s just a matter of when.
Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 2
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/