Upper Hutt City v Wellington United
Women's Central League
Sunday 8th May 2016
Att about 120
|Upper Hutt City & Wellington United commencing the NZ version of Battle of the Oranges!|
Each year in the Northern Italian city of Ivera there is a festival called the Battle of the Oranges, originating in either the 12th or 13th century, the core celebration involves the people of the city divided into 9 combat teams who proceed to throw oranges at each other over the 3 day festival. Something to put on my list of places to travel to. For today's travels I found myself visiting Upper Hutt, the smallest city in New Zealand, to see two teams that play in orange Upper Hutt City and Wellington United take on each other in the Women's Central League (although obviously, the away team Wellington United, would be playing in their change strip of all white today).
This was a top of the table clash between the two unbeaten teams in the Central League, and two teams that know each other well, as they provided the bulk of the players for the Capital women's team in last seasons National League.
Upper Hutt City is one of the stalwart clubs of women's football in Wellington, having been formed as Upper Hutt Ladies in 1971 as part of the Upper Hutt United club. They split from Upper Hutt United in 1977 and played under the name Upper Valley Wanderers until 1996 when they merged with Tararua United & Upper Hutt United to form Upper Hutt City. While Wellington United are one of Wellington's oldest clubs, and have been National Mens Champions 3 times, they have never been particularly strong on the women's side of the game until recently when they won Capital Premier in 2009 and entered the Central League.
Both teams can score goals as seen in their records this season before today, Upper Hutt City had 21 goals from 4 games (including a 10-0 & 8-1 win) while Wellington United had 27 goals (including a 16-2 win) from their 4 games. But with both teams only conceding 6 goals between them it looked as if it would be a tight match.
A good crowd of around 120 had turned up on a glorious sunny day at the picturesque Maidstone Park (well as long as you look towards the hills and not the car park). There was a small group of traveling Wellington United fans and a group of home fans with a placard proclaiming them to be the Bryant Fever Zone in tribute to Upper Hutt defender Kennedy Bryant – who says there is no football culture in NZ!
It took Wellington United just a minute to open the scoring when Jayme-Lee Hunter broke forward and slotted the ball past an advancing Cushla Litchwark in the Upper Hutt goal. Much of the rest of the half was played in the Wellington United half with Upper Hutt enjoying slightly more of the possession, The Wendi Henderson coached side playing a style not dissimilar to Ramon Tribleutx's Auckland City, not afraid to push the ball around and quite often bringing their keeper in to play as they tried to build up from the back. While they did this well they were finding a solid Wellington United defence hard to break down and besides a couple of free kicks didn't really manage many shots on goal and went into the break 1-0 down.
The 2nd half was more of the same, with two very evenly matched teams struggling to break the other down. Wellington United did get a couple of breakthroughs but these were easily dealt with by Upper Hutt's keeper, Olympic hopeful, Cushla Litchwork. Upper Hutt finally got a break in the last minute when Emma Main broke into the Wellington United half and with only keeper Natasha Ingram to beat, looked as if she had secured a share of the spoils for Upper Hutt only for her shot to agonisingly past the wrong side of the upright!
|Emma Main (UHC) Shoots|
So Wellington United win the first Battle of the Oranges this season (and that's without having to throw any Oranges at Upper Hutt City!) and open up a 3 point lead in the league. While there are some huge discrepancies in the Central League between the top and bottom teams, the top involving these 2, last seasons champions Seatoun and Palmerston North Marist are going to make it a close and hopefully exciting race for the title.
Footnote : At the game I got to meet Dr Yomcat who is also a photographer, I knew who he was as we follow each other on Twitter. At half time he gave me a Long Lens and I thought he was just lending it to me to see how I go with one, so was absolutely blown away when he said at the end of the game that I may as well keep it as he doesn't use it anymore. So thank you Dr Yomcat it is extremely appreciated and it will be well used.