Always next year
An excellent chance for Melville to bring home New Zealand football’s most famous trophy slipped away in the late slosh at North Harbour Stadium.
Melville were well placed to bring the Chatham Cup back to Hamilton for the first time since 1988 when they led 1-0 with 25 minutes remaining thanks to a wonderful right-foot canonball special from Federico Marquez in the 12th minute.
But the balance of power shifted mightily when Mark Jones was sent off for a second bookable offence. Napier City Rovers scored in the 82nd and 85th minutes to take the lead only for Melville skipper Aaron Scott to thrust his team back into contention with an 86th minute equaliser.
However Napier had the final say when Napier’s Japanese midfielder, the prophetically named Sho Goto, banged the winner home of the crossbar in the 89th minute.
It was a gut-wrencher for Melville who looked to have the measure of Napier with a full team on the pitch, and a big travelling army of supporters in the stand.
And it was little consolation that the final was considered one of the most watchable in recent memory, and the first since 2014 to be decided within 90 minutes.
Best for Melville were Marquez, who went off early in the second half, and Max tommy, who made some wonderful second half saves after being largely unemployed in the first half.
The loss marks the end of an era for Melville with Aaron Scott stepping down from first team football after 20-odd years at Melville, while coaches Sam Wilkinson and Michael Mayne have elected not to renew their contracts for 2020. The club wishes them all the best and will make an announcement on coaching plans for 2020 in due course.
Josh Davies and Craig Pritchard are returning to Wales, though Pritchard is talking of returning in March.