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The real deal

North Shore 0, Melville 2
Allen Hill Stadium, Auckland, March 30 2018

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After last week’s stuttering start to my official winter season, it felt great to be getting into it properly yesterday and even more so to be doing it at Allen Hill. Some of my best childhood football memories are here, watching Waikato United play North Shore in the old National League in the shadow of that iconic wonky old stand.

I see there are now significant plans for sprucing things up around here. Flash landscaping, an extra carpark, a state of the art hybrid pitch. Part of me is a little sad, because the place will lose some of its magic. But thankfully they are not going to mess too much with the absolute signature piece of Allen Hill – that stand. It still features proudly in the concept drawings, maybe straightened out a bit, maybe with a lick of paint, but the essence is still there. It would have been easy to build something new or just take it down and throw it away. Thank goodness someone had the vision to see its rustic beauty and leave it right where it is.

Speaking of things getting straightened out a bit, Melville certainly seem to be starting the season well after the disappointment of missing out on promotion last year! They absolutely annihilated Oratia at Gower last week – 11-zip! This breathtaking statement of intent moved me to pose on Twitter: “Is it already time to ask who will be the other team promoted with Melville?”

The co-coaches replied with a resounding no:

Sam Wilkinson: “One catch doesn’t make a summer!”

Michael Mayne: “Means nothing. 3 points is great but means very little.”

And club stalwart Cordwainer Bull was equally emphatic: “No. Melville battered teams by double figures last season and still missed out. More decisive will be how they perform away from their Gower Park carpet.”

That Tweet from Bruce was the absolute deciding factor in my choice of where to head this week. I wanted to see if this game would answer the question: Are Melville the real deal this year?

Was it answered? Maybe not definitively, but we must be getting close to that point.

Allen Hill is not what you’d call a carpet. Maybe a very old carpet in a Savage era State House that hasn’t been renovated since the 80’s and is looking a bit threadbare in places… Maybe the outer piles are going, so the middle of the house is a few inches higher than the sides… But the original workmanship was quality, so it’s holding up ok all things considered!

And the home team were pretty solid too. The other club that was unlucky to miss promotion in 2017, Shore are coming off a loss to new kids Waiheke United in round 1 – a clash that one Shoreite on Twitter referred to as the “biggest game of the season!” But it’s clear they are no slouches and will probably be there or thereabouts come August.

Over the course of the match it seemed pretty clear to me that Melville were the superior side on the day and deserved the points, but Shore fought hard and caused them some significant problems.

The first goal came in the 17th minute when ex-Wanderer Mark Jones managed to hook a low ball right across the face of goal as he was going to ground near where the goal line meets the six yard box on the right. It missed everyone until it found Liam Steffert at the far post, who hammered it in.

After a few scares for the visitors at their own end, the match was ultimately sealed by Jama Boss, who latched onto a rebound from a sharp save to make it 2-0 in the 72nd minute.

If I was a betting man, based on the evidence I’ve seen, I would definitely put a lazy tenner on Melville to get promoted this year – quite possibly as champions. I think the lessons of last year will have been learned and they simply will not allow themselves to choke this time.

Then again… You know me and jinxing Waikato teams, so don’t go putting your house on it, tatty carpet or not…


Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 1

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

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