An ASB Premiership Football Journey - Part 1

ASB Premiership Semi Final
Hawke's Bay United 1 Team Wellington 3
Bluewater Stadium, Napier
Sunday 6th March 2016

So given I have chosen the name The JourneyFan, it is probably about time I did some more journeying, and since the results went Hawke's Bay United's way the other week I traveled to Napier for the 2nd Semi-Final in the ASB Premiership. 
(The first Semi-Final between Auckland City and Canterbury United was delayed a day due to fog at Christchurch stopping Canterbury United leaving on time, Auckland City won the game 2-1 when it was played.)

There was no danger of fog at Bluewater Stadium (or Park Island for the traditionalists) for the 2nd Semi-Final in what was a stunning day in Napier. My first challenge was in getting to the ground. I had been here before but it was sometime in the 90's and I wasn't driving that time. So I asked the guy at my motel (on Marine Parade) and he showed me the best route and said it was about 10 minutes away. Giving myself 20 minutes, I promptly left the map in the room and missed a vital turn and ended up discovering the suburb of Taradale, the locations of Church Road & Mission Estate Wineries and praising the wonders of modern technology which got me to the ground a few minutes before kickoff!

While Bluewater Stadium is the home of Hawke's Bay United, it is also the home of Napier City Rovers, the 4 times National League & Chatham Cup champions. Many (including me) have made the mistake in the past of believing that Hawke's Bay United franchise was basically Napier City Rovers in disguise, we couldn't be more wrong and this club is actually a great example of how the franchise system should work with input from clubs in the area and utilising the best resources they have. Bluewater Stadium at Park Island and the Napier City Rovers club rooms are the best in the Hawke's Bay, and are up there among the best in NZ. Impressive was not just the foreign clubs scarves, but the several NZ Club teams shirts and pennants.

The Napier City Rovers club rooms - one of the best in NZ

I have always associated Napier and the Hawke's Bay with a pretty positive attitude, probably down to the great weather they have and also the fact the place is a pretty funky little town. But there is being positive and being positive and seeing Hawke's Bay United Chair, Paula Walker stating in the program that their “...youth team showed strength and character and improved results...” when the youth team failed to win a game all season is probably taking things too far!

However while the youth team results must be a worry, the senior team's definitely aren't finishing 2nd in the regular season and having the home advantage in the one-off semi-final game. Although it was Team Wellington who stated their intent in the first minute getting the ball into the net, only for it to be ruled offside. They didn't take long to do it again, only 4 minutes later a Luis Corrales effort counting. Hawke's Bay United came back into the game and got one back before giving away a penalty and going into half time 2-1 down which was probably a fair reflection of the game.

In the 2nd half Team Wellington played the smarter game. HBU were getting worried in the 30th minute a Team Wellington sub who was warming up on the sideline exclaimed “is there only 10 minutes left?” The reason HBU were putting Paul Ifill on! While the ex Millwall & Phoenix player injected some extra life into the Hawke's Bay United team he was unable to score and it was Team Wellington who got a goal on the break and booked their place in the grand final.

Paul Ifill (HBU) being watched by Alex Feneredis of Team Wellington
So Thursday see's the Grand Final between 7 times champions Auckland City & 3 times runner up Team Wellington. The 2nd O-League place is also on the line, if Team Wellington beat Auckland City it's theirs but if they lose Hawke's Bay United will become the 5th New Zealand team to play in the Oceania Champions League

 For more of my photo's from the game please click here