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Swamp Football

Franklin United 4, Papakura City 1
Bledisloe Park, Pukekohe, June 16 2018

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Guardian Sport posted a wonderful photo of ‘Swamp Football’ on Instagram this morning. It looked absolutely magnificent. My immediate reaction was that New Zealand Football should immediately cancel its Futsal programme and invest the money in this instead. And the best part is, we’ve already got the facilities if yesterday’s So South It’s Almost Hamilton Auckland Derby was anything to go by!

It was my first ever game at Bledisloe Park, and while I’m super glad I wore old shoes I know I shouldn’t complain – last time I tried to watch a game here I drove all the way to Pukekohe only to find it had been called off. So small mercies and all that.

Mud aside, it’s always a treat to watch a derby, especially when these two teams are involved. I have great friends at both clubs even if the Papakura ones would probably prefer I stayed as far away from their games as possible considering they almost always lose with me in attendance.

Division two is an interesting beast this year. While its very future hangs in the balance, with Auckland Football yet to decide whether or not it will be a thing in the future, for all intents and purposes the relegation zone is everyone below second place – they might all be in the Conference and WaiBOP Premiership this time next year.

This makes Papakura’s position at the foot of the table potentially moot but for Franklin, there is still an outside possibility they can sneak a promotion. And their chances of that certainly weren’t harmed yesterday.

The home side dominated the opening exchanges yesterday and looked for all the world like a goal was just a matter of time for them. But as is so often the case it was their opponents who celebrated first with their only real attack of the game up until that point – a deep cross flashed across the face of goal and met by a low header from Rajnesh Sharma.

Despite the setback it still looked like a foregone conclusion that Franklin would score eventually although I was reliably informed that it wouldn’t exactly be the first time this season they have played like this only to concede more than they score!

But if Franklin have had a few issues with end product in the past, that seems to have been addressed by brand new signing James Hoyt who looked to me like the best player on the pitch. He got the equaliser on around about the half hour mark then one cruel blow was followed by another as Papakura’s former favourite son Charlie Heather lashed a goal through the keeper’s legs thanks to an awkward deflection it took on its way past a defender. 2-1 was the score at the break.

Papakura looked better in the second half, coming close to scoring on more than a few occasions thanks to a combination of their own attacking qualities and some interesting defensive choices from Franklin. But a goal from Hoyt on the hour mark and then another with about ten minutes of the match remaining sealed both his hat-trick and the three points for his team.

The win leaves Franklin still eleven points adrift of the second promotion place – currently occupied by Bucklands Beach who are in turn four points behind Takapuna. If there is a division 2 next year, Kura need to close a five point gap to leapfrog Ngongotaha as well as Te Atatu – who sit one point below the Villagers.

And I really hope there is a division 2 next year and beyond.

Turning up to Bledisloe, squelching through the mud. Getting fed info by goalkeeper Jason Mann in the middle of the game. The Assistant Referee asking me if I was taking a photo of him because he got the call wrong (he didn’t get it wrong). Left back Darren Woolnough debating the finer points of who needs to “read the rules” with a spectator.

Division 2 is special, and life just wouldn’t be the same without it.

Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 2

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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: http://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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