All Whites back as Ferns earn game time

Despite some having trouble getting out of Wellington due to bad weather, many All Whites were back in action for their clubs over the weekend after earning a double win over Fiji while the overseas-based Football Ferns have also been receiving plenty of game time.

After leaving the All Whites’ camp before last Tuesday’s match as a precaution, Chris Wood was fit enough to start for Leeds United on Saturday but couldn’t continue his remarkable scoring record as the Whites lost 1-0 at fellow promotion chasers Reading. In brighter news for the striker, he has been shortlisted with two other players – Newcastle United’s Dwight Gale and Brighton’s Anthony Knockaert – for the Championship Player of the Year award. He does not have long to find out if he has claimed the prestigious honour with the English Football League awards ceremony to be held in London on Sunday.

Recent developments haven’t been as pleasing for Winston Reid, who could only watch as West Ham United lost 2-1 to relegation-threatened Hull City and is likely to be out for the rest of the Premier League season with a groin injury. The All Whites captain has been making an impact away from the field though after launching the Winston Reid Foundation, which aims to establish world-class football academies in Auckland and Wellington, as well as encouraging more Maori kids to play football.

After playing 90 minutes in the second Fiji game and being stranded at Wellington airport due to cancelled flights, Tommy Smith – who celebrated his 27th birthday on Friday – was not involved in Ipswich Town’s 1-1 draw with Birmingham City in the Championship but could be in the frame for Tuesday night’s clash against Wigan Athletic. Wood will also have the chance to get on the scoresheet again overnight with Leeds set to visit Brentford.

Outside of the major leagues in England, Sam Brotherton has a European excursion to look forward to after his Sunderland U-23 side made it to the final of the Premier League International Cup. Defender Brotherton missed Friday’s semi-final win over Norwich City due to his All Whites commitments but will be hoping to return to the line-up when the Black Cats meet Portuguese club FC Porto in the final, the details of which are yet to be confirmed. After withdrawing from the recent All Whites squad due to a hamstring injury, Ipswich Town loanee Monty Patterson is expected to be available for Braintree Town again in the fifth-tier Vanarama National League later this month.

Over in the Netherlands, Ryan Thomas will have a new manager to play for at PEC Zwolle next season and it’s a name familiar to football fans down under. Former Melbourne City coach and ex-Holland international John van ‘t Schip has been appointed to succeed Ron Jans in the Zwolle hot seat and he will inherit an All White going from strength to strength after Thomas scored a double for New Zealand in the 2-0 win over Fiji. Like Smith, he was then delayed in getting out of the capital and came on as a 66th-minute substitute as Zwolle was held to a 1-1 draw by Excelsior in the Dutch Eredivisie.

The All Whites’ United States-based pair managed to leave Wellington in time to line up for their sides over the weekend and were both in action in the same match as Deklan Wynne’s Whitecaps FC 2 came up against Reno 1868 in the United Soccer League. Wynne found himself facing fellow fullback Kip Colvey, who is contracted to Major League Soccer outfit the San Jose Earthquakes but was made available to feeder team Reno for the 1-1 draw, during which Wynne received a late booking. In Major League Soccer, Jake Gleeson was again between the sticks for Portland Timbers and pulled off an outstanding save early on in a 1-1 draw with the New England Revolution. The result extended Timbers’ unbeaten home streak to three matches and took place in front of over 21,000 fans.

In South Africa, Michael Boxall went straight back into the starting eleven for SuperSport United – and was joined in doing so by fellow Kiwi Jeremy Brockie – but couldn’t prevent a 1-0 Absa Premiership loss to Baroka. Brockie forced the goalkeeper into a brilliant save on the half-hour mark and also volleyed wide just after the hour while Boxall was replaced in the 67th minute before Brockie joined him on the bench soon after.

Closer to home, the All Whites contingent at the Wellington Phoenix returned to Hyundai A-League action in fine style by helping their side to a 3-0 away win over the Melbourne Victory. Andrew Durante and Tom Doyle both made the starting line-up while Glen Moss, Michael McGlinchey and Shane Smeltz were all named on the bench. Matt Ridenton and Kosta Barbarouses – who missed out on the New Zealand squad for the Fiji games – also featured from the start but Ridenton’s day was ruined when he suffered a serious injury early on. The third goal had a strong All Whites element to it as Doyle burst forward before squaring for Smeltz to finish in the 90th minute. Marco Rojas played the whole match for the Victory and headed wide of the target in the 29th minute while his new All Whites team mate Jai Ingham came on as a 68th-minute substitute.

In the women’s game, the Football Ferns Development Programme Squad took to the field for the first time over the weekend – drawing with Birkenhead United in the boys’ 17th Grade Conference Youth League (AFF/NFF) – but many Kiwis were also in action on foreign shores. Leading the way is Ali Riley, who has recently been involved in some of the biggest female club games in the world as her FC Rosengard side met Barcelona over two legs in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League. The fullback took full part as the Swedes fell to a 1-0 loss at home in the first leg and also played in the second leg as Barcelona ran out 3-0 winners on aggregate.

Elsewhere in Europe, Amber Hearn couldn’t get on the scoresheet as USV Jena were defeated 1-0 by FFC Frankfurt in Germany’s Frauen Bundesliga while Ria Percival’s FC Basel also drew a blank in Switzerland but at least came away with a point after a scoreless stalemate with FF Lugano 1976. Basel remain third in the Nationalliga but missed the opportunity to close the gap on the leading pair as FC Neunkirch and FC Zürich fought out a 1-1 draw in their top-of-the-table clash.

In Holland, Betsy Hassett came on with 10 minutes remaining to help Ajax to a 1-0 win over ADO Den Haag but Kirsty Yallop’s new team did not fare as well in Norway, Klepp going down 3-2 to Avaldsnes in pre-season action ahead of the Toppserien campaign, which kicks off in mid-April.

Also preparing for an upcoming season in fresh surroundings is Anna Green, who had a training camp in Portugal with her Reading team mates as the English outfit gets ready for the FA Women’s Super League Spring Series. The Royals had five days in the Portuguese sunshine and dropped into Spain on the way home to take on Real Betis in Sevilla, where they drew 2-2 with Green starting the match before being withdrawn at half-time.

Those flying the flag for the Football Ferns in the United States are likewise gearing up for the start of their season with the National Women’s Soccer League set to kick off in just under two weeks. Rosie White will take some good form into opening weekend after scoring a double as the Boston Breakers defeated a boys’ side from the New England Futbol Club 5-1, just three days after beating Boston College by the same scoreline. White also found the net in that game so already has a pre-season tally of three strikes to her name.

Rebekah Stott’s Seattle Reign will begin their preparations with a match against University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) tomorrow while Katie Bowen got a full match under her belt as FC Kansas City defeated the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers 2-1 in their second pre-season game. Bowen and White will come up against each other in the first round of the National Women’s Soccer League as Kansas are set to host the Breakers on April 16.

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