Lotto NRFL Premier Division
Manukau United v Onehunga Sports
Video thanks to Dieter Dvorak.
Photos by Roger Fowler.
With Onehunga Sports’ Waikaraka Park still recovering from an interestingly timed Council dig-up and Manukau United’s Centre Park still recovering from the grass disease which has ravaged South Auckland’s football pitches, the clash between last year’s champions and this season’s newest team was moved to the increasingly fancy Michael’s Avenue Reserve – home of Ellerslie AFC.
— Manukau Utd F.C (@ManukauUtdFC) March 30, 2018
It was a scorcher, and during the warm-up players on both teams noted the intense heat radiating up from the artificial surface already. Fortunately for supporters the trees at one end provided shelter.
For Manukau United the quest for the first victory of the season was one, for Onehunga continuing the title defence which had begun with a 4 – 0 dispatching of Bay Olympic the previous Sunday.
Starting for United was former Suburbs midfielder Moses Dyer, with the impressive and combative George Konusi making way for him. Onehunga lined up as they had done six days previously, with a reliance on the pace and movement of Sean Lovemore up front.
Offsides were plentiful in the opening stages and there was no small amount of niggle in the game. At times, Manukau keeper Jono Mannes was playing sweeper and not doing a bad job of it – his pre-season playing outfield for the reserves has obviously affected him.
The biggest moment of the first half was the sight of the referee Mr Trent yellow carding Moses Dyer and pointing towards the sideline after 20 or so minutes, not the first use of the sin-bin in the competition (Adam Dickinson wins that prize!) but one which drew interest and a lot of shared questions between the Onehunga and Manukau supporters; “Is it ten minutes including stoppages?” “Does it count as a proper yellow?” “Does he wait for a break in play to let him back on?” “What did he say?” “I thought it was a Green card!?”.
The Manukau bench timed Dyer’s sin-bin as 11 minutes 30 seconds. He wouldn’t be the last player off as the heat cranked up. Sports probably had the better of the half, but couldn’t turn that into a lead.
Half Time: Manukau United 0 – 0 Onehunga Sports
Ten minutes into the second half, Onehunga were awarded a penalty. The usual post-decision stramash of players turned into a sin-bin for United’s Reece Day, and Andrew Milne cooly dispatched the penalty low and to the left of Jono Mannes. 1 – 0 to Sports, and 11 v 10 on players.
Four minutes later, it was 10 v 10. Jake Porter’s protestations saw him receive his temporary marching orders.
At least it wasn’t boring. Fewer than five minutes after, with Day and Porter stood pitchside, Sanni Issa danced his way into the area and absolutely refused to pass the ball until an Onehunga challenge put him on the deck and the ball on the spot for Andre Estay to dispatch.
Back to 11 v 11 then, with the scores level. A stunning backheel from Shaker put Issa in, but he chose to slide the ball sideways to Estay who powered it high and to the right of the goal. It should have been a goal, but within a minute there was one. Caunter’s restart to McNeil saw the Sports left-back robbed by a determined Iwa Shaker who put the ball into Sanni Issa, who’d just got back onside as the defence retreated. He curled the ball past Caunter and Manukau United had the lead.
From the restart, Manukau pressed forward down the right hand side once more. Issa recieved the ball out wide, cut infield and slalomed across the edge of the box – avoiding the challenges of four white shirted opponents – before hammering the ball beyond Caunter. The ball ended up stuck behind the stanchion holding the net up. Pick that one out.
With a two goal deficit, Onehunga had to go for it (not that they hadn’t been already). Waves of attack surged towards the Manukau goal as the men in black dropped deeper to repel them. Their only outlet were balls through the channels to Issa and Shaker, trying to take advantage of the Sports’ high line.
Make no mistake, this Sports team are going to scrap to defend their title this season. Only some last minute touches and booming headers prevented them pulling one back, as well as the acrobatic efforts of Mannes in the Manukau goal.
As the game hit 90 minutes, on came George Konusi for Moses Dyer to add more strength in the midfield. The pairing of Quansah and Konusi will be one that should send shivers through any opposition midfielder who hasn’t been hitting the gym this summer.
Ten minutes, ish, of added on time and Manukau United had their first victory in the Premier Division.
More match photos from Phototek can be found here.
Categories: NZ Northern Men's Premier
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.