Tauranga City officials and players have been left bewildered and unhappy after their Northern Football league match with Auckland’s Forest Hill Milford was brought to an abrupt end at the hour mark on Saturday – as they were 2-0 up and looking comfortable.
The referee blew for fulltime after bringing the captains together to discuss his decision around 15 minutes into the second spell. Underfoot conditions, after some periods of light rain had fallen and a reserve team match had been played on the pitch earlier, were challenging but not unplayable, the club believes.
Now they are uncertain what the future holds for the fixture, and their chances of picking up the three points they feel they deserve from the match.
City coach Nic Millichip says he couldn’t follow the logic of the decision, once the referee had decided to go ahead with the match.
“I don’t feel like conditions had changed significantly. It would be different if we’d had a massive downpour and there was pooling on the pitch. The ball was rolling the same as it was at the beginning of the game.
“My logic really is that I don’t think conditions changed from when he made the decision to kick the game off at the beginning. If he’d made the decision then I’d have accepted that.”
Questions were asked over why the earlier reserve teams’ game was allowed to proceed, but Nic says when that decision was made the pitch was fine.
Following that match parts of the pitch were cut up and players found themselves sliding around from the first whistle. Though some rain fell at times through the match players did not appear to be struggling any more in the second half than they had in the first.
Following the abandonment the referee told the teams he felt player safety was the issue. As conditions did not change greatly during the match, however, the question remains why it took 60 minutes to reach that conclusion.
“Where that decision came from I don’t know. I’m definitely a bit put out by that.”
Nic feels the visiting players may have put undue pressure on the referee. He was left unimpressed with their antics, taking every opportunity to convince the referee they felt the game should not continue.
As the teams left the field there was no doubt which had got the better of the deal. Expressions on the faces Forest Hill players suggested they were well aware they had dodged a bullet.
“We do feel that the incorrect decision has been made and we feel like we’ve had three points go begging because of it.”
City’s Josh Nelson and Andrew Carter have even more reason to be aggrieved at the decision, having scored superb matching long-distance first half strikes to put their team two up.
The sky blues always looked to be adapting better to the conditions, and their reward came through Nelson on the half hour mark. The veteran midfielder picked up the ball wide on the left a good ten metres outside the penalty box and lifted it over a helpless Forest Hill defence and into the far top corner of the net.
Then it was Carter’s turn. Having failed to add to the score with a chance from inside the box after some nice buildup play he decided to go for some one-upmanship, putting in an exact replica of Nelson’s goal.
“We played to the conditions,” Nic says. “We were playing really well and the boys were up for it, and I felt we dominated the game. They weren’t competing with us I felt.”
The fact that the two great goals will be wiped from the record is one of the tragedies of the day.
Nic says they’re still in the dark over the future of the game. As of mid-afternoon Monday no information had been posted on the Northern League website.
“I haven’t seen it rescheduled yet but I believe it will be rescheduled for the end of the season, and it will go down as an abandoned game.”
Having to do the hard work to put themselves into a winning position over one of the league’s leading teams all over again, however, will be a bitter pill to swallow.
This Saturday the team face the toughest away trip of the season, taking a ferry ride to Waiheke Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf to meet third-placed Waiheke United.