Today was a typically mucky mid-autumn Hamilton day and a quirk in the draw meant I had the opportunity to watch the city’s two teams that play in red. It was certainly an afternoon of contrasts.
On the one hand, I saw Stevie Williams’ Melville United dispense pretty comfortably of their visitors from Whangarei. Later in the afternoon I caught up with NRFL new boys, Claudelands Rovers, and saw them bow down to divison 2 leaders, Western Springs. The fortunes of these two teams seem to be set on very different trajectories…
Melville United 4-0 North Force
I’ll get to the Rovers game a little later but first Melville. Having suffered the ignominy of relegation from the Premier League they’ll no doubt want to get back up as quickly as possible. The way division 1 is shaping up this year means that any one of five teams could go up with Glenfield. You can insert one club for another and there’s very little difference. Rubbish cliche that it is, it really all does depend on who’s the most consistent over 22 games. So Melville needed to win this one comfortably.
Gower Park is a tidy set-up and a great place to watch football now, although the pitch isn’t what it could be. We got there, me and both kids, 20 minutes or so after kick-off just in time to see the first goal. Timing’s everything and we nailed it this time, although not on purpose might I say. A great through ball bounced kindly for Jordan MacCarter who lifted the ball nicely over the advancing keeper to make it 1-0. It was a promising start (for us and Melville) to what was a competitive 1st half.
North Force didn’t look out of their depth but neither did they appear to have anything in the attacking third that looked all that cutting – the sign of an obviously struggling side. That would come back to bite them in the bum as the game ran out. The half time break saw almost a complete extra Melville side on the pitch doing tricks and blasting point-blank shots at their reserve keeper. At the other end a couple of visiting subs whiled away their time slicing the ball into the hoardings behind the goal.
Melville got their second midway through the second half and a work of art it was. Breaking wide they got the ball to the touchline, from where it was whipped in to MacCarter who slammed it home. Busy yet precise. Nice.
Melville scored a couple late to win 4-0, but by then I was gone. Having missed the start of this one I was determined not to make the same mistake for the afternoon’s feature game. More importantly, I had my two boys with me and the crazy was starting to come out. Kid crazy. The sort of crazy that only food and confinement could dampen down. So we were in the car quick smart and off to Galloway Park, via a local dairy. I’ll catch up with Melville again later in the season.
Claudelands Rovers 0-3 Western Springs
Thankfully mum was at Galloway to meet us so the warring factions were separated.
Galloway Park is a pretty bleak place when the wind is out and the sun isn’t. So I never expected a football clinic. But I was curious to see how Claudelands were handling the step up to the NRFL and also interested to see how Neil Emblen had transformed Western Springs.
Rovers became something of a localised cause celebre in their pre-season play-off run to the NRFL and started this one well. They could have been 2-0 up inside the first 15 minutes as a deflected free kick scuttled just wide and a close range header was botched. Springs looked the definition of workmanlike throughout the first half, with flashes of pace out wide but little inspiration.
The first half was actually quite a tough watch and I was beginning to wonder whether we’d see a goal. Then the second half kicked off and it became quite clear we would.
Emblen had subbed himself on up front, a move that gave his team the focal point they needed. Within seconds he’d sent a shot wide and it wasn’t long before the opener came. Rovers’ defence buckled under the onslaught and gifted Emblen an open goal, into which he rolled the ball to make it 1-0.
The visitors scored twice more to make the final score line a harsh but fair 3-0. Their second came following some ropey Rovers defending from a corner while the third was a scorcher. A nicely worked free kick created the opening and the shot from just outside the box was lashed into the angle formed by cross bar and upright.
Clearly these two teams have distinctly different goals for the season. Western Springs’ 2013 will be deemed a disaster if they don’t win promotion while Claudelands Rovers will do well to survive to fight another year.
Springs appear to have the implements needed to achieve their mission, although they’ll have a far better chance with their coach on the field. That’s the type of league it is and for them pragmatism needs to rule. Grind out the results and get the job done with a minimum of fuss is the modus operandai for 2013. If they make it out of division 2 then a club of their size should have no problems attracting the sort of attacking talent they need to keep going.
With Mangere losing at Fencibles this win has put Springs three points clear at the top of the table. The buzz so far has all been about Mangere and their goal scorers. Springs have been plodding along quietly doing the business. I think they’ll have a slip-up or two somewhere along the line but, football genius that I am, expect they’ll be in the top two come season’s end.
I fear for Rovers as they seemed to just run into the ground the longer this game went on. They had little going forward which could prove costly. On the positive side of the ledger, Rovers seem to have a very well developed team spirit and none of their players dropped their heads. That could be enough to help them get the points they need. Looking at the results so far, relegation will be a scrap between a number of sides this year. That’s very different to the recent past when division 2 had an almost season-long tail gunner.
Rovers didn’t need to win this one, but they will need to get their share of wins against the likes of Manukau, Albany, Lynn Avon, Warkworth and Waiuku. I hope they do.