Men's 1sts Match Review
The final day of the season in Cap 1 was deliciously poised for drama. But few could have predicted the way things would play out.
At 2.30pm, top-of-the-table Karori were taking on second-bottom Tawa. Tawa were sitting one point behind Petone, who were taking on the other top-of-the-table team in Wainuiomata. Karori and Wainui were tied on points and within 2 on goal difference, meaning they would be chasing goals to win the title, while Tawa and Petone were chasing points to avoid relegation.
Two points behind the leaders were the men's first team and Brooklyn who were meeting at Boyd Wilson at 3.30pm. In the event of either Karori or Wainui drawing their games, we had the advantage of a better goal difference that would allow us to sneak into second place and a promotion spot. At least, that was what we believed to be the most likely path to promotion.
All of that was to be academic though if we couldn't beat Brooklyn. Our first round game against them had taken place in the worst conditions of the season, and the lottery hadn't gone our way with Brooklyn scoring with the last kick of the game to win 4-3. So in case there wasn't already enough to play for, we were also looking to avenge that earlier loss.
A big, vocal crowd had turned out at Boyd Wilson, including a healthy contingency of travelling Brooklyn fans, making for the best atmosphere of the season. When the game got underway, the crowd was treated to a high intensity game, with tackles flying in on both sides.
As the game settled down, we began to take control. Central midfielders Pat Waller and Tyler Boyd were tracking down every ball, allowing Alex Brodie and Naoya Kanno to continually probe the Brooklyn defence. At the back, Matt Lamb and Luke Horn were doing a stellar job keeping Brooklyn's star striker under wraps, and on the left Shaun Limmer, fresh off his 21st the night before, was sweating out the alcohol as he tore up and down the left flank, cheered on by his private travelling support crew on the sideline.
Despite dominating territory and possession, we were unable to make the breakthrough. The best chance fell to left midfielder Marcus Ebert. A slip from the Brooklyn centre back put Ebert through one-on-one but a brilliant save from the Brooklyn keeper preventing him opening the scoring. 0-0 at the half.
It didn't take long into the second half for the relentless pressure to finally tell. A well-struck volley from Waller was palmed away by the Brooklyn keeper, right to the feet of right midfielder Yeshnil Naiker, playing his last game for the club before a big money transfer to Hawke's Bay, who calmly stroked the ball home, sparking delirious celebrations on the sideline.
The lead was doubled soon after. Once again the ball fell at the feet of Waller and this time he needed no assistance, lashing home a left-footed volley into the roof of the net. The Brooklyn heads were starting to drop, and even the introduction of Si "Old battler" Davies off the bench for a hamstrung Matt Lamb couldn't halt the momentum. It was another sub who scored next - youngster Trevor Everett popping up with another important goal to surely put the game beyond Brooklyn.
There were a few late jitters after Brooklyn were awarded a penalty for a questionable hand ball with 10 minutes to play. But those nerves quickly faded and the game was comfortably seen out to the final whistle. Probably the best performance of the season and a well-deserved 3-1 win.
The real late drama had been playing out on the sideline, as social media gurus Scott Cameron and Joe Krinkel were desperately searching Twitter to find word of the other results. The Karori twitter feed had mysteriously gone quiet and with Twitter yet to reach Wainuiomata FC, we remained in the dark about where we were sitting.
The uncertainty was ended in amazing fashion, as a man claiming to be the Capital Football accountant made himself known on the sideline shortly before full time. He soon informed the Uni bench that Karori had been beaten 3-2 by Tawa, and Wainuiomata had conceded a last minute goal to draw 3-3 with Petone (special shout-out to Petone MOTM Steve Davey for not forgetting his roots). In addition to bringing news, the mysterious accountant had also brought the Cap 1 trophy, in the knowledge that a win for either Uni or Brooklyn would likely see them crowned champions, depending on the margin.
Fortunately, our two-goal margin was enough to see us finish above Wainuiomata by a single goal on goal difference, an immensely pleasing turnaround after missing out on promotion on goal difference last season. Having done the math, the accountant proceeded to present the trophy to the team straight after the final whistle, sparking manic celebrations including a victory lap for the 3 fans on the other side of the field.
Without doubt, this was the most remarkable day of football I have ever been involved with, and one that is likely to feature prominently when the next club history is written for the 100th anniversary. A first league title for the men's first team in 20 years on a day when a different set of results could have seen us finish in 4th - it still feels surreal.
Huge credit must go to Juan Pablo, Sean, Eddie and all the players on their achievement, and a huge thanks to all the supporters who have been coming along all season, especially everyone who made for such a great atmosphere on Saturday. We are very much looking forward to seeing everyone at prizegiving as we are going to need some assistance drinking out of a rather large trophy!