Central United coach Aaron McFarland said his team has been working towards the goal all season of lifting the ISPS Handa Chatham Cup and they have a chance to make the final this weekend.
The five-time champions, who defeated Wairarapa United 2-0 in their quarterfinal to make the final four, will meet cross-town rivals Bay Olympic tomorrow afternoon at Kiwitea Street in Auckland.
In the other semi-final NRFL Premier League winners Onehunga Sports will travel south to take on three-time champions Cashmere Technical on Sunday afternoon in Christchurch. Onehunga Sports are looking to complete a rare double with their first victory in the ISPS Handa Chatham Cup, while Cashmere are looking to make their 10th final.
Up in Auckland, McFarland has been delighted with Central’s run. The former assistant coach of the Football Ferns has guided his team to wins over Waitemata (7-0), Takapuna (4-1) and North Shore United (4-0) and beat a quality Wairarapa United in make the final four.
“Everything we have done so far has all been about getting to that final and we know we have one more game to get there,” he said. “The first step is performing well. All of our work has been around building a cohesive team that is capable of winning these types of big games.”
— New Zealand Football (@NZ_Football) August 24, 2017
Central United, who are currently fourth in the NRFL Premier League, five points clear of Bay Olympic, know what they are up against in the local derby as they look to make the final of the ISPS Handa Chatham Cup for the ninth time.
“We have had them twice in the League so far this year and they have come out on the plus side of the ledger. We know that this is different. It is a one off game. Both teams have very experienced players. If you look at the likes of James Pritchett, Chad Coombes, Sam Campbell – they are all very experienced Bay Olympic players in their team. And they have some real pace in their forwards. They are a dangerous team and they will be difficult team to beat.”
McFarland said their win over Wairarapa United – where Dean Lausev (84’) and Emiliano Tade (injury time) scored in the final six minutes – showed great mental strength.
“To be able to that patient, to see a few shots on goal not go as we would have hoped, and to keep out some of their big name players for 80 minutes and then still come up with the goods when needed was a real show of character. It showed that the players play a good style of football and are prepared to keep to that style and wait for the opportunities to come. Ideally we don’t want to wait 80 minutes next time but if it takes 90 or 120 minutes then that is the way Cup games go.”
— Central United FC (@CentralUtd_FC) August 23, 2017
Meanwhile, Bay Olympic have shown plenty of character of their own in the Cup this season. They opened with a win over Forrest Hill Milford United AFC (3-1), defeated Hamilton Wanderers in extra time (2-2), overcame Western Springs (3-2) and then edged Western Suburbs Football Club (2-1) in their quarter-final away from home.
— Bay Olympic Soccer (@BayOlympic) August 23, 2017
McFarland said the ISPS Handa Chatham Cup holds a lot of prestige and it is an important tournament for a club like Central United to perform well in it. He expected that the home advantage of Kiwitea Street will be an important factor.
“We are familiar with the surrounds, the surface and the size of the field. All of those factors play into the home team’s advantage. We have had a good run of games at Kiwitea recently and we feel like we have a good understanding of what the ground has to offer. We hope to have a good number of local fans supporting us and we expect there will be plenty of Bay Olympic fans too. It all plays to our advantage being at home.”
McFarland was part of the Football Ferns’ team for four years and helped the team qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. He has enjoyed getting back to grassroots football and working with players who have plenty of National League experience.
“I just love coaching,” he said. “I learned a lot from Tony [Readings] in the Ferns and it was a really good environment. It was the right time for me to move on and work on my own leadership development. Being back at a club which has high aspirations is a good match and I have really enjoyed it.”
The ISPS Handa Chatham Cup is an open knockout competition throughout New Zealand. It is one of the oldest sporting trophies in the country dating back to 1923.
The most successful teams in the history of the ISPS Handa Chatham Cup are Mount Wellington (seven wins, two of them since amalgamation with University), Christchurch United and North Shore United (six wins each). Bay Olympic has never won the ISPS Handa Chatham Cup, while Central United are five-time champions but have not lifted the trophy since 2012.
ISPS Handa Chatham Cup Semi-Finals
Central United v Bay Olympic
Kiwitea Street, Auckland
Saturday 26 August, kick off 2pm
Cashmere Technical v Onehunga Sports
Garrick Park, Christchurch
Sunday 27 August, kick off 2pm