I spent a nice Monday afternoon out at Stanmore Bay for my pick of the Chatham Cup’s round 2 matches. Why Hibiscus Coast versus Melville United? It’s two minutes from the in-laws, so it was nice not to have to traipse across Auckland before a 200km drive home in the evening.
The setting at Stanmore Bay is one of the most picturesque in the league. My memories of their changing rooms are that they are about as small as you’ll get anywhere in the world, but as I’m no longer a player, coach, manager or anything apart from a mere football correspondent, that’s of no concern. All I needed was a playground (to keep my son occupied, of course…), the sea lapping at my back and a decent game of football. This afternoon had all three.
Sometimes a cup game so far from home at the end of a holiday weekend isn’t really worth the hassle. A quick word with Melville’s Bruce Holloway early in the game confirmed this match was pretty much in that classification for him. He didn’t seem too fussed about the result, nor overly expectant either, as Melville were suffering from injuries and suspensions they could have done without at this stage of the season.
From the start it looked as if Hibiscus Coast would take advantage of the hand they’d been dealt. They started well, pressed forward with pace and stretched the visitors who took a while to get going. Then Melville scored. A corner was headed to the edge of the box where young midfielder, Scott Hilliar, lashed the ball home. Almost immediately the game was back level as the hosts countered with pace and opened up the Melville defence, giving Dan Bungard a chance from right out in front.
It stayed level right up to the break but it wasn’t for the lack of effort from both sides. The key moment of the match came right on half time. I know I sound like Arsene Wenger when I say this, but I didn’t actually see what happened. I looked up after answering one of my son’s many questions to see a Melville player prone on the ground and an Hibiscus Coast player bouncing around like he wanted to take on all comers. The sides sort of came together, maybe because they felt they had to, but I think everyone knew what was coming. Hibiscus Coast were soon down to ten then the half time whistle blew.
The sending off seemed to have the desired effect for Melville as they quickly ran up a 3-1 lead to seemingly put the tie to bed. They were playing well, but then stopped. They hadn’t finished the game off at all. Hibiscus Coast came at Melville for the last twenty minutes and were unlucky not to get at least one back. They saw a shot pushed on to the cross bar and a header cleared off the line. Just when they’d looked buried they came back to life. As you do, I guess, when there’s nothing to lose.
But they didn’t do what they needed to and ran out of time. Melville, for their efforts, were rewarded with a home tie in round 3 and a decent opportunity of progressing even further. For Hibiscus Coast, well, it’s back to the league for them.
I also took part in the Chatham Cup tweeting phenonenon by providing updates through my Twitter feed. It felt cool to be the official commentator of a round 2 Chatham Cup match. For a few minutes.
I’ve been travelling to Stanmore Bay, on and off, since the early-nineties. It’s always a good trip, especially when you win. It’s just as good of a trip nowadays when I only have a couple of minutes to drive to get home.
It’s good to see Hibiscus Coast on a bit of an up-swing as they look to establish themselves in NRFL Division 1. They still have a long way to go to turn themselves into a top side, but the methodology appears to be sound. Maybe I’ll be able to come back in a few years and watch my other home team performing at the level I’d always hoped my main home side would reach. Time will tell.