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Friday, July 7, 2017


The end of the first Tweede Divisie season in Dutch football for more than forty-five years was nearing its conclusion when Koninklijke HFC hosted Excelsior Maassluis at the Spanjaardslaan; the end of April is normally a time of frayed nerves for most football fans, and supporters of these two clubs were not spared these emotions. Both teams were hovering just above the relegation play-off places; a point apiece would be of some help, but a win for either side would guarantee survival.

It was a nervy though physical start to the match from both sides, though the visitors showed a little more initiative, looking occasionally dangerous down the right-hand side. Kevin Vink had two goal attempts in the first ten minutes; the first, a free-kick, slammed into a defensive wall, and then a volley which went high and wide of the Haarlem side's goal. Robert Niels volleyed a corner-kick into HFC goalkeeper Tom Boks; it should have served as a warning to the home defence as Niels was unmarked, but luckily for them, his contact was poor.

It took until the 14th minute for HFC to have a shot on goal, and even then it seemed more by accident than design that Danny Hols's cross from the right touchline only just cleared the Excelsior crossbar. Excelsior went back on the attack at times during the following quarter of an hour, but efforts from Vincent van Dorp and Vink were off-target; HFC also applied some pressure at times during this period, but a Koen Beeren header which went wide was all they had to show for it.

Both defences looked fairly comfortableduring the first half-hour or so, but that of HFC was a little more stretched, none more so than when Kilian Berkhout slung in a low cross from the right which evaded Boks but not the attention of defender Carlos Opoky, who slid in and cleared the ball at the far post just before Vink could apply the touch needed to put his side in front. Vink almost set up a chance for Excelsior with half-time approaching, but his header on to Dean van Ooijen - who was onside and unmarked - ran just a little too far ahead and over the goal-line.

It was an uninspired first-half with more interventions from trainers for injuries than shots on goal, especially from a HFC perspective. They really needed to up their game a gear or two, but instead it was Excelsior who started the second half on the front foot, with Vink and van den Berg sending in shots from distance early on in the half.

The home side finally managed a shot on target after 55 minutes when Kevin de Visser tested Excelsior 'keeper Jean Paul van Leeuwen with a low shot from the edge of the area which van Leeuwen saved on his left with some difficulty. Eight minutes later, Carlos Opoku rose up to meet substitute Jeffrey Sam Sin's corner, but glanced his header to the left of van Leeuwen's goal.

Seconds later, HFC's endeavours were rewarded when Kevin de Visser's sweet half-volley from outside the penalty-area, which came from a headed clearance by Excelsior defender Kevin Ringeling, flew into the bottom right-hand corner of the Excelsior net. Safety was within reach for the home side, but fate was to take a cruel turn in the 71st minute.

Excelsior midfielder Vincent van Dorp sent in a cross from the right-hand side; Oscar Wilffert in the HFC defence jumped to meet the ball but somehow got his angles completely wrong, turned away from the ball in mid-flight and caught the ball with his left elbow. A penalty was the inevitable outcome, which was taken by Niels Redert, who stroked the ball into the bottom corner, sending Boks the wrong way and Excelsior towards preserving their third-level status.

The goal rejuvenated the team in red and white, who went on to score a second with fourteen minutes left on the clock. Opoku went to head away an Excelsior free-kick but hesitated and the ball went on to the unmarked Vink near the HFC goal-line. Vink dinked a cross towards the far post, which was met by Redert, who bundled the ball and defender Roy Castien over the line just ahead of Boks, who was a split-second late to avoid joining Castien and the ball in the back of the net as Redert wheeled away in triumph.

HFC now had to score twice to ensure that they would remain in the Tweede Divisie, but they never came close to doing so in what was a turgid last quarter of an hour. There was a claim for handball, which mostly came from the home supporters, after Ringeling made contact with the ball at a suspicious angle, but the referee waved away the protests, indicating that the ball came off the defender's chest.

Excelsior were the team which came closest to scoring, when Adair Veiga Lopes headed wide from a free-kick in the first minute of four minutes of injury-time, but it was a second-half that only Redert will really look back on with any sense of nostalgia. Even so, his double ensured Excelsior would be playing Tweede Divisie football next season, whilst HFC would be looking over their shoulders during the last two weeks of the season. Games against De Treffers and Jong FC Twente would help determine their fate.

KONINKLIJKE HFC: 22 Tom BOKS, 2 Danny HOLS, Oscar WILFFERT, 4 Carlos OPOKU, 5 Vincent VOLKERT, 6 Kevin DE VISSER, 14 Jacob NOORDMANS (8 Jeffrey SAM SIN), 17 Kevin STERLING (15 Vince DE KWANT), 18 Wessel BOER (44 Roy CASTIEN), 19 Koen BEEREN, 33 Michael TIMISELA

SUBSTITUTES (unused): 1 Gerard VAN ROSSUM, 16 André MORGAN

EXCELSIOR MAASSLUIS: 1 Jean Paul VAN LEEUWEN, 4 Daan SMITH, 5 Kevin RINGELING, 6 Niels REDERT, 7 Kilian BERKHOUT (8 Stean KRUITHOF), 9 Kevin VINK, 11 Vincent VAN DEN BERG (14 Adair VEIGA LOPES), 13 Dean VAN OOIJEN (28 Jeremy MORENO), 17 Kevin DERCKS, 18 Vincent VAN DORP, 20 Sefa KURT

SUBSTITUTES (unused): 16 Jesse LUB, 3 Hamit ALPTEKIN

FOOTNOTE: Koninklijke HFC went on to lose both of their last two matches against De Treffers and Jong FC Twente, whilst Excelsior Maassluis defeated Jong Vitesse and lost to AFC. However, both teams retained their places in the Tweede Divisie with Excelsior shooting up the table thanks to their two victories, eventually finishing in fifth place. "The Good Old" finished in thirteenth place, one point above the play-off zone. 

Jong Vitesse and Jong FC Twente were automatically relegated, with Spakenburg and UNA finishing in the play-off (nacompetitie) places. UNA lost to Harkemase Boys in the first round of the promotion-relegation play-offs and were relegated to the Derde Divisie, the fourth level of Dutch football. Spakenburg defeated Hercules in their first-round play-off, but lost to Rijnsburgse Boys in their second-round play-off and were relegated. FC Lisse defeated Harkemase Boys in the other second-round play-off and were promoted to the Tweede Divisie.

At the top of the Tweede Divisie, Jong AZ were ahead of the pack for most of the season and were promoted to the Jupiler League (the Dutch second level), nineteen points ahead of Kozakken Boys in second place. Jong AZ will take the place of Achilles '29, who finished in last place in the Jupiler League and will be in the Tweede Divisie next season.

It should be noted that the Tweede Divisie is the third level of Dutch football, whilst the Derde Divisie is the fourth and the Hoofdklasse the fifth. Thereafter, the Dutch football pyramid becomes regionalised, from the Eerste Klasse (level 6) down to the Vijfde Klasse (level 10).

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to all at the Koninklijke HFC for their help and hospitality; some of the information was taken from, whilst Wikipedia was also perused briefly.

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