Football: Chatham Cup finalists found

Birkenhead's Ethan Galbraith celebrates scoring. Photo / Photosport
Birkenhead's Ethan Galbraith celebrates scoring. Photo / Photosport

Birkenhead United made history today at Shepherd's Park in Auckland when they defeated Miramar Rangers 3-1 to make the final of the Chatham Cup for the first time.

Meanwhile across town, NRFL Division One side Waitakere City continued their dream run in the Chatham Cup when they outclassed Three Kings United 6-1 in a dominant display.

The two sides will meet in the final of one of the oldest trophies in New Zealand sport - the Chatham Cup dates back to 1923 - at QBE Stadium in Albany on September 11. With Glenfield Rovers and Forrest Hill Milford United contesting the NZ Women's Knockout Cup final, it is the first time that four Northern Football Federation sides have made it to the finals of the national knockout competitions.

Birkenhead United will look to win the title for the first time while Waitakere City FC will be hoping to return the club to its glory days from 20 years ago when they won the title three times in a row from 1994 - 1996.

Birkenhead will head to QBE full of confidence after overcoming four-time champions Miramar in front of their parochial fans.

The Red and Whites got off to a perfect start when they went ahead after five minutes from a corner. Jarrod Smith climbed high and delivered a powerful header to beat Miramar keeper Dan Clarke and send the home crowd into raptures. Niko Kirwan, the son of All Black legend Sir John Kirwan, got Miramar back on level terms back when he too scored from a header from a free kick down the right flank.

But the response from the home side was swift and accurate. Four minutes later Godwin Darkwa found space in the box and turned superbly before finishing past Clarke for a 2-1 half-time lead.

Miramar had a host of chances early in the second half but did not convert and Birkenhead's Ethan Galbraith delivered the decisive third goal to put the result to bed.

Birkenhead skipper Dan Morgan said they have worked hard all year with this goal in mind after losing in the semi-finals in 2015.

"You can't explain how good this feels," he said moments after the win. "We were all really disappointed last year to come so far and then get knocked out. Today we played how we wanted to play and got the result we were after.

The club deserves this today. Look at what they have put on. They have come out to support us every week, all the kids at this club, we have done it for them. One more step and we'll be giving the final everything. First we will celebrate this one and then begin our preparation."

Head coach Paul Hobson couldn't explain what it meant to the club to make the Chatham Cup final.

"It is an unbelievable feeling," he said. "To make the semi-finals last year and go one step further, I can't do it justice. We are a community club so I am so happy for them and all of the people that make this club special, today is for them."

Hobson was impressed by Waitakere City's win and said they have made a habit of upsetting teams throughout the Chatham Cup.

"I kept expecting them to slip over being a Division One team but they haven't and to beat a team 6-1 they totally deserve to be there and they will have our total respect," he said. "It will be good to have two NFF sides in the final and in the girls as well. It will be a special occasion for Northern Football and we are sure there will be plenty of Birkenhead supporters there. We haven't finished yet and we will be preparing to be at our best for a chance to lift the trophy."

Meanwhile out west at Fred Taylor Park, Waitakere City gave their home fans plenty of reason to celebrate in their one-sided semi-final victory over Three Kings United.

The home side scored three goals in each half from six different scorers to put away Three Kings United and player-coach Jake Butler was pinching himself.

"It was a fantastic performance right from the get-go," said the former All White. "It is not often you win a semi-final 6-1. We knew our jobs and we did them tenfold so I am really proud of the boys."

Butler believed it was a tough game and the score-line flattered the hosts.

"We just took our chances," he said. "We haven't done that well all season and what a time to correct that. Every time we went forward we held the ball well, created chances and stuck them away."

Butler, who has achieved most things in his decorated career but not a Chatham Cup winner's medal, said if he was told at the start of the season that Waitakere City would have a chance to do the double of winning the league and also the Chatham Cup he wouldn't have believed it.

"It is a great position to be in. We know it is going to be tough against Birkenhead. They are a really mobile side and it will be a hell of a challenge but if we play like we did today then we have a good chance."

Captain Paul Rhodes, who opened the scoring for the home side, said their emphatic win was a special day for the club.

"I am so proud of the boys and it is no less than what they deserve," he said. "We had a phase in the first half where we got on top of them a bit and they dropped off. It was tough at times but we stayed together as a team and got through it. It has been a special season for the club and it is good to bounce back from last year. It was hard to see a club like Waitakere City get relegated so the first goal was to get back up and now we are in the Chatham Cup final so it's been a good season alright."

Chatham Cup Semi-final Results

Birkenhead United 3 (Jarrod Smith, Godwin Darkwa, Ethan Galbraith) Miramar Rangers 1 (Niko Kirwan) HT: 2-1.

Waitakere City 6 (Paul Rhodes, Anthony Hagan, Harrison Sage, Dylan Manickum, James Olausen, Keegan Linderboom) Three Kings United 1 (Max Manko) HT: 3-0.

Chatham Cup Final

Birkenhead United v Waitakere City FC

Women's Knockout Cup Final

Glenfield Rovers v Forrest Hill Milford United

Both at QBE Stadium, September 11

- NZ Herald

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