Age no barrier to Mooch

Weatherbeaten veteran goalkeeper Neil “Mooch” Mouncher was satisfied with his first northern premier league outing since 2012, when Melville beat Birkenhead 5-1 at Papakura under lights.

The win moved Melville above Birkenhead and back into fourth, and gave them an outside possibility of finishing second in the league with one round of matches remaining. Melville are at home to Central United at 3pm on Saturday.

Mouncher is of uncertain age, but is reputed to have crossed the Alps with Hannibal, and 25 years ago was talked of as a possible All White.

He was called up when it was decided to rest Max Tommy, who has an injured hip with the Chatham Cup final looming. Young Matt Wheatley was reserve keeper on the bench, while previous reserve keepers Jamie Searle (Aston Villa) and Keegan Hansen are overseas.

Mouncher has been training furiously over the past three weeks in preparation. He has been running around Hamilton Lake every morning, drinking carrot and beetroot juice for breakfast, and has ditched his remedial elocution classes in favour of evening pilates, transcendental meditation and karmic yoga. In a month he has dropped 12kg and made more empathetic friends.

All the same, Melville’s answer to Peter Pan was nervous being back in the big time.

“I was praying to myself, ‘don’t let the first time I touch the ball be to pick it out of the back of the net’,” he said.

“But in a sense Birkenhead let me off the hook. I was able to handle just about everything that came my way, and by the end I was disappointed not to have kept a clean sheet.”

Birkenhead got a cross into the box in the 58th minute for Alex Connor-McLean to stab it between Mouncher’s legs.

“Couldn’t close my legs quickly enough,” Mouncher said. “Then again, back in the day I was always known more for opening legs than closing them.”

Mouncher said he was in good shape, and finished the night with a couple of glasses of red wine, after declaring himself available for selection again on Saturday.

He has mellowed from his youth and only occasionally bollocked his back three. Further, in something of a surprise, Mouncher did not threaten any team mates with violence during the whole evening.

“Once they had worked out I wasn’t going to be racing out to the edge of my area, we got along very well.”

Mouncher said he couldn’t take all the credit for Melville’s win, and was impressed with his team, which was always in control, with two goals from Josh Davies (including a fifth minute penalty), Harry Rose, Marc Evans, and Mark Jones.

“Josh took his goals well and Craig Pritchard was back to his best.”

Mouncher would not be drawn on persistent mutterings that he is still the club’s best goalkeeper, 24 years after he last won Melville player of the year.

“Some people might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment.”

# Melville have won the toss to be named the “home” team in the Chatham Cup final on September 8.

# Melville are looking at running a supporters’ bus from Gower Park to North Harbour Stadium on September 8. Details to follow soon.

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