Tough viewing – but Melville go top

By guest match reporter Veruca Salt at Bledisloe Park

Melville are where they want to be for the rest of the northern league division one season – top of the table on goal difference – after trudging to an often unconvincing 4-0 away win over Franklin United in Pukekohe.

It was the first time a Melville bus had turned left at the top of the Bombays and headed for this exotic land of potatoes, onions and unforgiving red clay since 1988.

And Franklin United were charming enough hosts to put on brand new clubrooms for Melville, with this the first northern league match at a swish new complex – Monteith’s Pale Ale on tap – from which to view the misdirected passes below.

Franklin's new clubrooms at Bledisloe Park

Franklin’s new clubrooms at Bledisloe Park

While most of the Melville lads would happily have swapped the nice open air ambiance of the upstairs clubrooms for a flatter playing surface, they can’t complain. They only have to play on these pock-marked grass-hidden bumps once, whereas poor old Franklin have it every second week.

Normally when your team wins 4-0 away to go top of the table you ask: ‘So how good were they?” But in this instance it’s easier to start with: “How bad were they?”

Well, they were pretty bad, with occasional outbreaks of just mildly bad, iced with bits of very good. The passing was dire and deathly slow. For worrying spells the three-man backline looked as unconvincing as a great big unconvincing thing when Franklin broke forward, despite some fine individual interjections from Aaron Scott, Robbie Greenhalgh and Luke Searle.

Melville were without star midfielder George Curry, sidelined through illness all week. As you know there is nothing worse than a bad Curry, and George was treated with such viral suspicion he struggled to even find anybody to share his hot chips with in the clubrooms. Steven Holloway started but was also under the weather – team medics suspected he had caught a virus in his beard.

Also missing was co-coach Michael Mayne, on duty at a wedding, and you can imagine this was probably the happiest day of his life as well, in that he didn’t have to watch this stuff.

The post-match phone-call from co-coach Sam Wilkinson probably went something like this: “Did the bride look nice, Mayney? Because our lads looked shit in white today.”

But let’s temper this projected negativity. Among those watching from the clubrooms balcony were the Bouma twins, Wytse and Merv, fresh from nursing their defending champion Reserve team to the top of the table with a 7-0 away win.

Wytse, left, & Merv Bouma: Wise twins

Wytse, the eldest of the twins by 10 minutes, said: “How badly Melville played will be quickly forgotten.”

Merv, the wisest of the twins by 10 minutes, agreed in his own broken English: “Yes, a fortnight from now all anyone will remember is that Melville beat Franklin 4-0.”

Max Tommy needed to make two fine first half saves to keep Melville in the contest in the first half. Tommy is half German, and if you had to guess, you would say it was his right side that was German, given his teutonic efficiency in lunging in that direction.

Tommy’s non-German side later came into play when the referee gave an indirect free kick against him for dribbling the ball out of the box, and then back in to pick up the ball.

But who knew you couldn’t do that? Is that considered “a back-pass to yourself” – or just a wonky ref’s ruling? Thoughts please.

As with this match report, the first Melville goal was an awful long time coming. In the 59th minute Lachie McIsaac unveiled the old classic Birkenhead short corner routine on the right. He played it to Liam Hayes, who jinked inside a defender and crossed. After a half clearance Welshman Patrick Hinchcliffe headed the ball in a gentle parabolic arc over the prostrate keeper and just under the bar from about 10 metres.

Patrick Hinchcliffe celebrates his first league goal for Melville. PHOTO: Marc McMullan.

Patrick Hinchcliffe celebrates his first league goal for Melville. PHOTO: Marc McMullan.

Excellent stuff. Franklin complained that their keeper was impeded, but given they complained about every goal, every free kick, every decision, it had long since become just an amorphous blur of grievance with significantly diminished impact.

Though it did prompt some unfriendly banter between the coaching benches, with Franklin’s Geoff Cooper shouting to his troops that it was now time to get the elbows out – and Sam Wilkinson was unrestrained in chiding him that that was a very foolish thing for a northern league coach to say.

On social media Franklin United have taken to referring to themselves as the “Fu” Fighters. Which is pretty good, but if you wanted a more exact entertainment mediascape handle after that dugout banter, it might be better to go with the Fu Manchus (ask your Dad). Still, it was all friends afterwards, and this too will soon be forgotten, right?

Marc Evans made it 2-0 in the 70th minute. He played a lovely 1-2 with Hinchcliffe, chipping the return just over the keeper and into the top corner from an acute angle on the right. As the keeper got a hand to his shot, there was much consternation after last week’s “own goal” ruling that Evans may also suffer at the hands of an aberrant referee. Evans – ever a details man – was quick not so much to celebrate with his team mates as to check with the referee that he’d got the goalscorer’s name correct.

Marc Evans really knows how to celebrate a goal - with or without vodka.

Marc Evans really knows how to celebrate a goal – with or without vodka.

Evans was later seen at the bar happily nursing more vodkas than you’d find at a Bolshevik Reunion (ask your Grandad), but there was a funny post-script. The AFF official evening results release almost induced cardiac arrest when it named Stafford Dowling as the goalscorer (before being belatedly corrected – thanks Gordon).

Perry Katesmark came off the bench to add midfield control for Melville, and Hayes made it 3-0 in the 88th minute, bursting straight through the middle to dribble around the keeper with a nice feint. There has not been a more deserved goal this season.

Liam Hayes sweeps the ball into an empty net for his first Melville official northern league goal.

Liam Hayes sweeps the ball into an empty net for his first Melville official northern league goal.

Just to make sure he wasn’t again robbed by another own-goal decision, Hayes took a few more touches than was strictly necessary, lit a cigar, read a chapter of War and Peace, then netted his first northern league goal for Melville.

Speaking of official scoresheets issues, there was a further complication when Dan Findlay nicely played in Eric “Jones” for the fourth goal.

As everyone knows, actor Eric is desperate to be known by his porno name of Eric “Jones” and to keep his real handle a secret from the Melville faithful. But the stuffy old AFF insist on using real names – something to do with administering things properly, apparently – so there was a strange exotic name on the results sheet that was difficult to reconcile with the Melville team listings in the programme. A visit to the Deed Poll Office may be needed, Mr “Jones”.

Eric "Jones" finally got on the scoresheet after having a couple of penalty shouts declined.

Eric “Jones” finally got on the scoresheet after having a couple of penalty shouts declined.

Hinchclife had the ball in the net once again in injury time after more nice touches from Findlay, but it turned out to be one of those exceptionally rare off-side decisions where the ball is pulled back 6 metres from the goal-line but the goalscorer is somehow ruled offside by the assistant referee.

Scott was named player of the day – for just being Aaron Scott. In these sort of matches, that is usually enough.

In his first Melville aftermatch speech Wilkinson said Pukekohe was “a tricky place to come” and praised the new clubrooms facility.

Melville Reserves in the new Franklin clubrooms

Melville Reserves in the new Franklin clubrooms

“We were careless with the ball – untidy. It wasn’t a great performance for us as a group,” he added.

On Saturday Melville are away to co-leaders North Shore, who got home 3-2 over Waitemata.

# Melville Reserves went top of their league on goal difference after their 7-0 win. Goals came from Josh Nooijens (2), Jacob Robb (2), Marc Glenister, Matt Shaw and Quest tipping.

Melville Reserves on spectator duty at Franklin

Melville Reserves on spectator duty at Franklin. PHOTO: Cordwainer Bull.

# Melville Feds lost 0-2 to Waikato Unicol, but Melville Noobs (New Old Boys) started life with a 6-1 win over Unicol.

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