It seems that everytime I visit Stembridge Road in Ngongotaha it’s raining. Wet, grey, miserable, cold. I’m guessing this isn’t a constant condition, so it must be me.
Ngongotaha is a village on the edge of Rotorua. It’s just down the road from the Agrodome, which is ironic, given the state of the pitch their match against Matamata was played on. As the mower was clearly broken someone from Ngongie could, surely, have hired a few of the Agrodome’s residents to munch the grass down to size.
It’s a while since I’ve been there, but my memories of the Stembridge Road pitch is that it was always one of the best on the local circuit, so I’m not sure what’s gone wrong. My guess is the club has a small over-worked committee that has to deal with a less than co-operative local council and they got caught out for this fixture. Hopefully, for them, things return soon to how they once were.
I only over-elaborate the state of the pitch because, despite that, both these sides put in a good showing. This was an entertaining, end-to-end match, that was competitive without going over the top. There was plenty of goal mouth action, reasonable passing and enthusiasm. Either side could have won. I’ve seen many, many worse matches than this one.
It finished 2-1 to the hosts, which was probably the right result as they appeared to just shade the match. The Swifts had gone ahead on 20 minutes through Peter McCoskrie. Josh O’Sullivan equalised for Ngongie before the break then the hosts got the winner 2o seconds after the restart. I was as caught out as the Swifts back three so I missed who scored it, but I’m sure someone from Ngongie can help out with that.
Ngongie went a little more direct, which was perhaps the wiser way to play in the conditions. They seem to be a tight unit that likes to press forward, while their back four is pretty well organised. It seems to me this is a team that has been together for a while and it shows. Their keeper could cause them problems, though.
As for the Swifts, well I’ll try to be objective. As the club’s immediate past-President, I’m pleased to see what the club is trying to do with the side. They had some very young players out there and it’s clear they’re being coached to knock it short and look after the ball. In my opinion, the side is still some way off being the finished article. That will only come with more games so the signs are promising. The biggest immediate learning seems to be figuring out how to deal with a back three. They were caught cold for Ngongie’s winner just after half time, and the front two were too isolated too often. Hopefully that will come with time, too. Overall I was pleased with what I saw.
So that was my afternoon out with my club. The football was fun and I left having enjoyed what I saw, both from a football perspective and a Swifts perspective.
As an aside, I have to take a step back and ask a question that has puzzled me for a while. What is going on in Rotorua football that would lead to the city being completely anonymous in terms of higher level football? This is a city of nearly 70,000 people, yet Ngongotaha AFC in the WaiBOP Federation League Division 1 is the city’s highest ranked side.
Surely with that population base to call on, Rotorua should have a strong presence in the NRFL. Rotorua seems to me to be a smaller version of Tauranga, who I also think are chronic under-achievers at the top level. Is there something in the water over in the Bay of Plenty? Is it the dreaded spectre of football politics? Is it something else? I’d be very interested to know.