I had every intention of spending my day out at Links Ave, Mt Maunganui, wandering around the ground, watching all the WaiBOP Federation’s Pre-Season Cup finals matches and then producing what would be my first impartial match report in years.
Unfortunately, Matamata Swifts were playing and I discovered it’s still tough to be completely unbiased on a day when they’re playing. Enlightening.
Anyway, as for what was on display, it would be fair to say the Hamilton Wanderers side that hammered Ngongotaha 7-2 in the final were a step or three ahead of anything else on offer yesterday. That would be due, in no small part, to the fact they appeared loaded with NRFL Premier League players. Nothing wrong with that – they were good to watch.
The intensity of that match, at least for the first 45 minutes, was streets ahead of any of the other games. You’d expect this, of course, for a final, even one of the pre-season variety. Ngongie did well to keep it at 2-2 at the break, taking the lead twice, but even then you could see what was coming. In the end ability, fitness and football won out for Wanderers. Jarrod Young’s chip for their fifth goal was the dictionary definition of deft. Highlight of the day.
At the same time on pitch two Tauranga’s reserves were defeating Whakatane 2-0. If I’m honest, which I usually am, I wasn’t much bothered with that as there didn’t really seem to be much of interest going on over there.
The earlier games were Te Awamutu versus Otumoetai and Hukanui Rototuna versus Matamata (the Melville Utd versus Rotorua Utd game wasn’t played). I spent most of my time watching the Swifts, but did make a genuine effort to have a look at TA over on pitch 2 (I played five Northern League seasons for Te Awamutu back in the day, so there’s still some personal interest there). There was no point really. It wasn’t pretty. The match finished 3-1 to Otumoetai.
As for the Swifts, they lost 1-0 to a Hukanui Rototuna Clube Alegria side that should walk away with the WaiBOP Fed 2 league. There was some decent football played by both sides, along with all the usual mistakes you’d expect at this level. The intensity wasn’t terribly high, which meant the ball was moved around a bit more than would normally be allowed, with way too much time given to players to settle on the ball. I’m guessing that won’t happen when they’re playing for real.
HRCA (sorry, too big a name to type out again) scored the only goal when their three metre tall number 10 was allowed a free header in the box from a free kick. The Swifts had a perfectly good equaliser ruled out, then hit the cross bar early in the second half. Encouragingly, the second half was more one sided than the most optimistic Swifts fan could have hoped for. Worringly, however, there wasn’t much of a cutting edge in front of goal. It’ll be interesting to see where the goals come from.
This was the first time I’d seen the 2013 version of the Swifts and I was quietly impressed. They’ve made a couple of decent signings and have stacked the side with youngsters, which is kind of the point after taking the decision to move out of the NRFL. They look very much like a work in progress, so I’ll check in with them from time to time over the season to see how things are going.
That wasn’t the end of the football, however. After the cup final, Tauranga’s 1st team played Hamilton Wanderers in their final pre-seaon match. Apparently Wanderers ran out 2-1 winners with ex-Swifts, Jack McNab and Jon Allen combining for Tauranga’s goal. By then the family had finally convinced me to head to the beach for a bit before heading home so it’ll be a while yet before I get to see Matamata City United in action.
Links Ave looked a picture and was a pleasant place to be on a warm late-summer afternoon. A soothing sea breeze wafted across the park all day and the main field was in great condition (definitely an 8 or a 9 if we’re using a recent study as reference).