Central come Oh! so close to Double

Central come Oh! so close to Double

Central came so close to winning the ‘Double’ at North Harbour Stadium. A game which left the team and fans alike, shattered. After 120 mins of football, in which Central were clearly the better side, it came down to a penalty shoot-out. Keeper Ross Nicholson was harshly adjudged to have moved off his line while saving Uni/Mt’s 5th penalty brilliantly. Scott Greenhalgh then stepped up and put his shot wide to give the underdogs victory. It was a simple as that!

Chatham Cup Final 2001

Central United 3 Uni/Mt. Wellington 3
(Uni/Mt. won 5 – 4 on penalties A.E.T.)

Central And Uni-Mount Serve Up Stunning Cup Final
by Jeremy Ruane

Central players after the penalty miss which ended the dream of winning ‘The Double’

Over the last ten years, clashes between Central United and University-Mt. Wellington have, for mine, come to be regarded as not-to-be-missed events – it’s always the first fixture I look for when the schedule comes out at the start of any given season.
Why? More often than not, the two clubs serve up an outstanding game of football, their contrasting styles almost always ensuring a spectacle worth savouring. I’ve had the pleasure of covering almost all of their clashes since they first locked horns in 1993, and given my knowledge of the history of these encounters, you can imagine my delight when both qualified for the
2001 Bluebird Chatham Cup Final.
Ever since, I’ve had this premonition that, on September 15 at North Harbour Stadium, the New Zealand soccer public would be treated to a quite stunning cup final – thanks, lads, you didn’t let me down!
Fittingly, an epic encounter finished 3-3 – fittingly because every single one of the players who took the park gave their all and then some in contributing to an edge-of-the-seat thriller which had more twists and turns than a Tom Clancy thriller.
That there had to be a loser is the lone disappointment of a quite magnificent match between two teams who kept going hammer and tongs for the full ninety minutes, then for the entire thirty minutes of Golden Goal extra time.
But a loser there was, and Central United were left, for the second year running, to claim the Bob Smith Memorial Trophy, the consolation for the beaten finalists in the Chatham Cup, a result of losing 5-4 on penalties – the same manner by which Uni-Mount had been beaten in the 2000 National League Grand Final against Napier City Rovers.
Defeat thwarted Central’s hopes of becoming just the sixth club in New Zealand’s soccer history to clinch the National League – Chatham Cup “double”. But Uni-Mount’s victory means they join Christchurch United and North Shore United as six-time winners of what remains the most sought-after prize in the code in this country.
The final got off to the best possible start, Uni-Mount opening the scoring after just eight minutes. Leigh Kenyon released Heath McCormack down the left, and the striker evaded Greg Uhlmann’s challenge before whipping the ball back from the byline. Travis Medhurst took the ball in his stride and emphatically swept it home from ten yards.
Central looked to respond via a Daniel Aliaga free-kick on the quarter-hour, but his long-range free-kick forcing a save from Simon Eaddy as it skidded low through the throngs in the penalty area.
Six minutes later, the Southern Trust National League champions came closer still. Josh Stick’s throw-in was flicked on by Campbell Banks to Glenn Eie, who surged forth with Banks in support. The Norwegian touched the ball inside for his team-mate, who stood on the ball when ten yards out on the angle, thus losing the chance.
Back came Uni-Mount, Ross Nicholson fumbling a Paul Temple free-kick underneath his crossbar, then recovering to scramble the sphere to safety as Paul Bunbury and McCormack came roaring in for the kill, the sight of a loose ball akin to the scent of blood on a lion’s nostrils.
On the half-hour, it was game on, big-time, as Central drew level. Eie and Banks opened up Uni-Mount on the left with slick one-two. The latter’s delicious back-heel gave Eie time to pick his option, and his choice was the incoming Aliaga. At full stretch from eight yards, he prodded the ball past Eaddy into the net – 1-1.
Last season’s beaten cup finalists were quickly into their stride, and a gorgeous one-touch move in the 35th minute deserved better fate. Scott Greenhalgh instigated the raid, but deft touches from Aliaga and Eie – a sumptuous flick – sent Bruce Hill careering through Uni-Mount’s spreadeagled rearguard. It looked odds on that Hill would be faced with the task of slipping the ball past Eaddy, but no-one had reckoned on Temple’s intervention. From the right wing, the midfielder hurtled back to aid his ‘keeper, getting in a splendidly timed covering tackle to leave Hill, quite rightly, wondering “Where the heck did he come from?”
Aliaga sent a twenty-five yard free-kick narrowly over the bar at the end of the first half, but just eighty seconds into the second spell, the ball was in the net once more – Uni-Mount, 2-1.
Temple – a massive game – caused all sorts of problems on Central’s right before crossing to the far post. It was headed to seeming safety by Jason Thompson, but Medhurst retrieved possession, and slipped the ball into the path of the incoming Bunbury.
Uni-Mount’s captain let fly with a twenty-five yard piledriver, but his shot had barely travelled ten yards when it struck McCormack full amidships and spun wildly away from Nicholson, who could only stand and watch in total bemusement as the ball arced into his top left-hand corner, the goalkeeper powerless to prevent a most fortuitous goal.
Talk about the proverbial red rag to a bull! Central responded like wounded lions, as, save for one incident in the next twenty-five minutes, they dominated the creativity, and the goalscoring.
Eie was first to be thwarted, Eaddy saving at his feet in the 54th minute after Uhlmann’s surging run and probing pass. Moments later, James Paterson intervened to avert the danger posed by a Brian Hawke cross, which prompted a brief Uni-Mount respite, and not the first – nor the last – controversial decision from referee Steve Sargent.
The subsequent 57th minute counter-attack by last season’s beaten National League Grand Finalists had last season’s beaten Chatham Cup finalists all at sea defensively, to the extent that a panic-laden back-pass from Stick had Nicholson in all sorts of bother, to the point that he had to flick it to safety with his hand.
Uni-Mount raged, but the referee signalled play-on, and Central duly did, scything their way upfield with immense incisiveness. Banks was the ultimate beneficiary, the striker cutting in from the left before unleashing a piledriver which Eaddy tipped to safety.
The pair’s duel continued unabated in the next ten minutes, Eaddy first turning a rising drive from Banks to safety on the hour, after the impressive Aliaga had battled past Medhurst. The ‘keeper, like his defence, was rendered helpless by Banks in the 63rd minute, as the striker’s jinking run left Uni-Mount’s rearguard in complete disarray. It would have been a brilliant individual goal well worthy of the stage it was gracing, but for the intervention of Eaddy’s left-hand upright, the custodian beaten all ends up.
Uni-Mount somehow managed to scramble the ball to safety on this occasion, but four minutes later, fell victim to a superb goal chock-full of one-touch passes. Hill, Eie and substitute Miro Major combined in breathtaking manner, the last-mentioned fashioning a sublime pass to Banks. The striker turned Andy Brown inside out before arrowing a thunderous drive into the top far corner of Eaddy’s net – fabulous stuff!
At 2-2, and with the bit between their teeth, Central kept on coming at a resolute Uni-Mount defence. Eaddy was equal to their next effort, Eie thwarted by the custodian after the striker had been put through by Hill, on receipt of a delightful touch from Major, whose presence of mind seconds later saw space created where none existed. But Brown blocked the twenty yard drive, and Paterson prevented Greenhalgh from capitalising on the rebound in similar fashion.
But the double-chasers weren’t to be denied a third goal, and took the lead for the first time in the match in the 73rd minute. Again, it was shrouded in controversy, referee Sargent allowing play to continue with Greenhalgh having taken a free-kick while the ball was still rolling. As Uni-Mount stood gaping, Eie played to the whistle, and homed in on goal. Eaddy blocked the striker’s effort, but the rebound fell to Banks – 3-2.
Straight from the kick-off, Uni-Mount poured forward, substitute Stu Roberts buccaneering down the left, Greenhalgh at his heels all the way. The striker eventually got the better of his marker, and cut the ball back for Temple to unleash a twenty yard screamer, which was heading for the roof of the net until Nicholson’s spectacular fingertip save turned the ball over the bar.
Medhurst took the resulting corner, and picked out McCormack in the goalmouth. The striker’s deft flick guided the ball between Nicholson and a defender, and into the bottom corner – 3-3 with fifteen minutes remaining, and no sign of the fun and games stopping yet!!
Sure enough, they didn’t. Uhlmann and Banks went closest to altering the scoreline before full-time, the latter’s effort coming in the final minute of an outstanding ninety. Of course, that meant extra-time, but if you thought these teams would adopt a different approach to the game in light of the fact that they were now faced with thirty minutes under Golden Goal rules, you thought wrong!
When these two sides clash, the only time the word ‘caution’ comes into play is when the referee is issuing a yellow card, as Mr Sargent did on six occasions in this absolute rip-snorter of a match. Otherwise, it’s gloves-off, no-holds-barred action, and both sides were dishing it out in spades on this occasion!
Twenty-eight seconds into extra-time, Banks swept in from the right and sent a shot swerving across the face of Eaddy’s goal. Seconds later, Central’s two-goal hero crossed to Hill, who headed the ball inside for Eie. Graham Pearce – a sterling defensive display – stepped in to clear for a corner, which Aliaga took.
Eie was his target at the near post, and the Southern Trust National League Grand Final’s hat-trick hero thought he’d done the business once more, only for Temple to hook the ball, quite literally, off the line.
Back came Uni-Mount, Ghanaian international Sanni Polo, with virtually his first touch since coming on as a substitute in the 95th minute, linking with McCormack to create an opening for Leigh Kenyon. Nicholson turned the former Football Kingz player’s shot away, then blocked McCormack’s attempt to steer home the rebound at the foot of his right-hand post.
McCormack and Roberts both went close with scoring attempts, before Paterson again intervened at the other end of the park, Daniel Koprivcic the defender’s unwilling victim, after Aliaga and Eie had weaved their wizardry on the left.
What happened right on the stroke of half-time had to be seen to be believed – and those who were watching the match on television were denied the privilege by state television’s penchant for advertisements and news bulletins, a penchant which, for some obscure reason, never seems to apply when less cerebrally challenging codes are being broadcast in the same time-slot.
Eaddy was the central figure, if you’ll pardon the pun. For Uni-Mount’s ‘keeper pulled off a quite magnificent double save in the 105th minute to keep the cup final fever fair fizzing along.
How he even saw Aliaga’s rasping twenty-yarder as it came hurtling through a forest of legs towards his bottom right-hand corner was amazing in itself, but that he managed to recover in time to turn Banks’ close-range piledriver from the rebound around the post, quite simply, defied logic – it was a stunning denial!
Into the second half of extra-time, and still they pressed, although in some cases, the legs were now getting weary – hardly surprising, it must be said. Six minutes remained when Polo set sail down the left on a box to box run, Central challengers struggling to keep pace. The Ghanaian pulled the ball back for McCormack, who fired over the top, a feat matched by Banks seconds later, as Hamish Carmody and Koprivcic combined to give their team-mate another chance to get the better of Eaddy.
With seconds remaining, Theary Thou delivered a last-chance free-kick into Central’s goalmouth. On the end of it, Kara Waetford, a Uni-Mount stalwart like so many members of this side. But the defender could only direct his header at Nicholson, and to penalties we went, but not before both sides had garnered a richly deserved standing ovation from the 2000 or so present, who had witnessed a classic Central v. Uni-Mount encounter – an example of New Zealand club soccer at its very best!!
Bunbury, the winner of the much-coveted Jack Batty Memorial Trophy as the cup final’s Player of the Day, took the bull by the horns, and duly converted, as did Major, McCormack – via the post, Carmody, Pearce, Aliaga, Roberts and Banks in quick succession.
At 4-4, Waetford stepped forward, and put his shot to Nicholson’s left. The ‘keeper dived and turned it to safety, much to the delight of Central’s faithful. But midst the bedlam, referee Sargent was signalling for the kick to be retaken, his assistant, Paul Smith, having indicated that Nicholson had moved prior to the kick being taken.
It was a big call, as it could be argued that both goalkeepers had moved for all preceding eight kicks. The difference on this occasion was that a save had resulted, hence the retake. Waetford accepted the second bite of the cherry, and with Uni-Mount ahead 5-4, the pressure was well and truly on the shoulders of young Scott Greenhalgh.
If he scored, it was sudden death, but if he missed, the cup was Uni-Mount’s, and Central’s double dreams would be over.
One kick later, the midfielder’s head was in his hands, while Uni-Mount’s players were running wild with delight, Greenhalgh having prodded his spot-kick past Eaddy’s right-hand post. He deserved better fate, as did Central, for defeat was something which their performance, like that of their opponents, didn’t merit.
But there had to be a winner, and while the beaten side have the consolation of the Southern Trust National League championship in their trophy cabinet, the blue riband of New Zealand soccer, the Bluebird Chatham Cup, will reside at Bill McKinlay Park this summer, the last occasion it graced that trophy cabinet being in 1990, ironically the year the destiny of the cup was last decided on penalties.

Central: Nicholson; Uhlmann, Thompson (booked, 23), Stick; Greenhalgh, Vuksich (Major, 59), Hill, Aliaga (booked, 66), Hawke (Koprivcic, 66); Banks, Eie (Carmody, 104)

Uni-Mount: Eaddy; Thou, Brown (Waetford, 77), Pearce (booked, 89), Paterson; Temple (Polo, 95), Ashton (Roberts, 70), Bunbury (booked, 86), Medhurst (booked, 112); Kenyon, McCormack

Referee: Steve Sargent


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