All Whites build as Ferns return

The overseas-based All Whites are looking to build some form ahead of this month’s FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Fiji while the Football Ferns are at the opposite end of their most recent international experience, having returned to their clubs after competing at the Cyprus Cup.

After several months of hitting the headlines, it has been a quieter week for Chris Wood, who was rested for Leeds United’s 1-1 draw at Fulham in the Championship on Tuesday as a precaution after feeling some tightness in his calf. He was back in the side for the weekend’s home clash with Queens Park Rangers but did not manage to add to his 22 league goals in the scoreless stalemate.

Also returning from a slight injury scare was Winston Reid, who was withdrawn just after the hour as West Ham United lost 2-1 to title-chasing Chelsea in the Premier League last Monday. The problem turned out to be a bad bout of cramp and, pleasingly for All Whites coach Anthony Hudson, Reid bounced back to take his usual place at the heart of the Hammers defence for a thrilling 3-2 defeat at Bournemouth on Saturday.

One of Reid’s defensive partners for the All Whites, Tommy Smith, took an important step in working his way back into the picture at Championship club Ipswich Town by making his first start since September as the Blues battled to a nil-all draw at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday. Smith, who has only recently returned to action after six months out with a back injury, played for just over an hour and was then an unused substitute as Ipswich drew 1-1 at Barnsley on the weekend. The 26-year-old is set to make his long-awaited All Whites comeback in the pair of Fiji matches.

Another England-based All Whites defender is likewise looking to make his mark at club level as Sam Brotherton continues to impress in the U-23 side of Premier League outfit Sunderland. The young centre-back played the full 90 minutes of a 2-2 draw against Leicester City and told the club’s website he is enjoying life at Sunderland, which is feels is an ideal place to begin his professional career and develop as a player.

Also in England, Brotherton’s fellow young All White Monty Patterson got the chance to take on a team that has recently made headlines all around the world as Lincoln City came to Braintree Town for a mid-week National League match. Lincoln have just been in the spotlight after an astonishing FA Cup run took them to a quarter-final tie at Arsenal and they proved too strong for Braintree as Patterson’s loan side fell to a 4-0 loss. Patterson had a chance to get on the scoresheet in the second half but could not find the target.

Having more luck in front of goal was Themi Tzimopoulos, who usually plays as a defender but has been pushed further forward into a holding midfield role at his Greek Superleague club PAS Giannina. He made the most of being higher up the pitch by scoring in a 3-3 draw against Platanias recently but was in the referee’s notebook for a different reason over the weekend after being booked in a scoreless tie against Panetolikos.

Elsewhere in Europe, Stefan Marinovic kept a clean sheet as SpVgg Unterhaching drew nil-all against SV Schalding-Heining in the Regionalliga Bayern, which is part of the fourth tier of the German football league system. Fellow goalkeeper Tamati Williams joined him in notching a shut-out as he pulled off several fine saves to help RKC Waalwijk earn a 3-0 win over FC Oss in the Dutch Eerste Divisie.

One level up in the top-flight Eredivisie, Ryan Thomas took full part for PEC Zwolle but couldn’t prevent a 2-0 loss to Willem II, which brought to an end a three-match winning streak. The All Whites midfielder had his team’s best chance to get on the scoresheet but put his strike over the bar.

Honing his sights more successfully was Marco Rojas, who scored an outstanding solo goal – his 12th of the season – and was voted man of the match by Melbourne Victory fans in a 4-1 win over Perth Glory. Jai Ingham made an appearance off the bench from the 77th minute for the Victory after celebrating his first ever call up to the All Whites a couple of days earlier. The Kiwi contingent at the Wellington Phoenix had a break from A-League action with the ‘Nix not due to take the field again until this Sunday.

Joining Rojas in finding the net was Jeremy Brockie, who came on as a half-time substitute and scored a late goal as South Africa’s SuperSport United lost 3-2 to Sudanese side Al Ahly Shendi in the first leg of their CAF Confederation Cup qualifier. His SuperSport team mate Michael Boxall did not travel to Sudan but he and Brockie both played 90 minutes as the Matsatsantsa drew 1-1 with Orlando Pirates on Tuesday, the latter setting up the goal with a great cross.

Over in the United States, Kip Colvey was in action but not in the colours of his regular team as the San Jose Earthquakes allowed him to line up for Reno 1868 – an affiliate club of the Major League Soccer franchise – for a pre-season match against Sacramento Republic. Colvey played the whole game as the United Soccer League side came back from three goals down to draw 3-3 and the fullback even had a chance to win it late on but skied his effort.

Also in pre-season action stateside were Deklan Wynne and Francis De Vries, who both featured as Whitecaps FC 2 claimed a 4-2 win over SFU. De Vries played the entirety of the match while Wynne was replaced at half-time as the Whitecaps coaching staff took the chance to run the rule over several triallists. The only Kiwi to feature in the MLS was Jake Gleeson, who pulled off an outstanding save in stoppage time to preserve the Portland Timbers’ 1-0 lead over LA Galaxy today.

Saying goodbye to the States meanwhile is Football Ferns striker Hannah Wilkinson, who has signed a deal with top-level Swedish team Vittsjö GIK following her spell at the University of Tennessee. It was the second piece of good news in a few days for the recent graduate after earlier being granted US $7,500 by the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship Committee that can be used towards any part-time or full-time study.

Wilkinson will join a host of her fellow Ferns in playing professionally in Europe, at least one of whom has already been in action since returning from the Cyprus Cup, where New Zealand finished ninth after beating Hungary 3-1 in their play-off match. Betsy Hassett wasted no time in getting back into the rhythm of club football as Ajax earned a 6-2 win over ADO Den Haag in Holland’s female Eredivisie while Kirsty Yallop is ready to make her debut for Klepp IL after swapping Australia for her new surroundings in Norway.

Like Yallop and most of her international team mates, Ali Riley is yet to return to official action after her Cyprus Cup exploits – which included captaining the side for the first time since 2010 – as the Swedish league does not kick off until next month. But she is preparing for a Swedish Cup match on Saturday and a massive encounter is then in store a few days later when her FC Rosengard side take on Barcelona in the first leg of their UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter-final.

Also in pre-season at the moment are Rebekah Stott, Rosie White and Katie Bowen, who are all based in the United States with the Seattle Reign, Boston Breakers and FC Kansas City respectively. They will kick off their National Women’s Soccer League campaigns in April, as will Anna Green with Reading in the English Women’s Super League.

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