An enjoyable day out

Marist 2 Naenae 1
Capital Division 1
Kilbirnie Park
Saturday 23rd April 2016
Attendance about 20

This is grassroots football, a public park next to the main road to the airport, one referee, no linesmen, about 20 people watching the game (well 30 if you include the subs bench) and I ended up being the ball boy!

This is Capital Division 1, the equivalent of the 4th tier of NZ football, a league where most players have to pay $200-300 just to play. A league where players main focus isn't necessarily football as shown by a post on the Marist Facebook page bemoaning the fact only 6 first team players turned up for training during the week – and we aren't even into the cold winter nights yet!

This was a game between the 1st teams of two Wellington clubs. Marist are one of the oldest, being formed 120 years ago in 1896. They have seen a bit of success winning the Chatham Cup twice (1932 & 46) and Wellington Division one 6 times. Most of this came in the 1930's and 40's. They spent most of their time in Wellington Division 1 & 2 only joining the Central League in 1992 and spending 6 years in Central League Division 2, they have had some recent success winning Capital Division One in 2001,04 & 09.

Naenae from the Lower Hutt suburb in the Hutt Valley, were formed in 1948. They joined Central League Division 2 in 1968 and have spent most of their history around the lower Central League divisions and more recently in Capital 1. The club's only major honour coming in 2008 when they won the Capital 1 Division (although the women's team did win the Kelly Cup in 1998).

You never know what to expect at games at this level, but that's the beauty of it, you could get an awful game or a 7 goal thriller. Given the level I was not expecting to see brilliant silky skill on show (but in NZ when do you ever expect to see that!), the one thing I should have expected in Wellington was a game affected by the wind. The wind today was one that many outside Wellington would describe as strong, however to Wellingtonian's it was just a bit of a gusty breeze! It did mean that the game would be played mostly in one half.

Naenae were playing into the wind in the first half and seemed to be dealing with it well until the 16th minute when the ball fell to Marist's Ben Pitson just outside the penalty area and he hit a sweet shot into the net. Naenae keeper, Donny Stoupe, was stunned and exclaimed “how the hell did that happen?”
Ben Pitson after hitting his shot for the first goal

3 minutes later Naenae equalised through Sam Stephens. Marist had the wind but never really threatened the Naenae goal and at half time I was thinking Naenae would be the team to take this game out as they looked slightly better and had the wind in the second half.

Games like these can be decided by a single moment of magic and thats what happened in this game, typically it was at the opposite end to where I was, when Connor Boyd scored a screamer that he will be talking about for the rest of the season (and possibly longer!). Then it was a full on defensive effort from Marist, up against the wind and a determined Naenae side, they kept coming up with the goods and the decisive tackles. They survived a credible penalty shout, before ref Barry Buchannan must have felt bad about not giving it so gave a dubious penalty instead.
Naenae's poorly taken penalty
The Marist keeper, Andrew Cresswell, managed to make a soft penalty look difficult to save but did great to keep out the rebounded shot. 
Andrew Cresswell saves the rebounded penalty shot
Then Marist captain Sean Murphy was sent off for a second bookable offence, keeping up my record this season of seeing a player sent off in every game I have gone to! Marist fought hard and held fast for their first win of the season and I had an enjoyable day at the football. 

As always I have taken some photos click this link to see them all