The race for a spot in the Futsal National League play-offs remains wide open after a very evenly-fought Northern Division Travelling Series in Napier over the weekend.
Auckland and WaiBOP are currently leading the way but it’s a sign of the competitive nature of the new-look league that they are far from dominating proceedings. The top-of-the-table Aucklanders are yet to lose but have actually only won two of their six matches while second-placed WaiBOP have recorded just three victories.
The pair – along with Northern in third – are also likely to have their advantage pulled back this weekend when Central-Manawatu, Capital, Canterbury United and Southern United all take to the court for the Southern Division Travelling Series.
The Northern Division sides would therefore have preferred to have opened up a wide gap over their southern rivals at the Pettigrew Green Arena over the weekend but none were quite able to do that with no team earning more than two wins from the four matches played by each.
Defending champions Auckland opened the series in style by defeating Central-Hawke’s Bay 7-2 but backed that up with a 4-4 draw against WaiBOP. The win-draw pattern then continued as an 8-3 victory over WaiBOP was followed by a 3-3 tie against Hawke’s Bay – an impressive effort from the hosts given they had shipped seven goals to Auckland just a day earlier.
“The fourth game of a weekend is always going to be tough and the way we bounced back from being two-nil down showed character,” said Auckland captain Marvin Eakins. “And I think the teams that usually go on to win this competition tend to react well when they’re under pressure.”
The comforts of home appeared to have little impact for Hawke’s Bay in the first half of the weekend as they lost their first two matches – that initial setback against Auckland being followed by another porous defensive display in a 7-5 defeat to Northern. But they then turned the tables on the northerners with a win of their own by the same scoreline before holding Auckland to a draw.
Captain Ethan Dent was delighted to come back swinging from a disappointing Saturday to enjoy an unbeaten Sunday.
“I guess it’s just that cliché of it being a new day,” he said. “We had a sit down and talked about what we didn’t do right. We weren’t tight enough from set pieces on the first day and gave away a few goals but on Sunday we were a lot tighter defensively and it worked for us.”
Like Hawke’s Bay, WaiBOP’s series was a tale of two contrasting days with a pleasing Saturday bringing a win and a draw – 5-3 over Northern and 4-4 against Auckland respectively – before Sunday brought a pair of losses, 8-3 to Auckland and 6-2 against Northern.
“The last loss was disappointing and took it from being a great weekend to an average one,” said WaiBOP captain Sam Masterson. “But I think there were still lots of positives in the way that we played. We just have to learn from what went wrong, I think our ball movement at times can be a bit patchy and we still have a bit of work to do in terms of getting out of presses.”
Northern also experienced mixed fortunes across the series, starting with a 5-3 loss to WaiBOP before beating and then losing to Hawke’s Bay in quick succession. They were then able to finish on a winning note with a 6-2 success over WaiBOP.
“We need to go home, train really hard and look to fix up some of the mistakes we made,” said Northern captain Naji Ghamri, who added that coach Felipe De Marchi Bernardi would be poring over footage from the series in his pursuit of lifting the team’s standards. “He’s great at taking the videos, breaking them down and showing us where to improve.”
It’s the turn of the other sides in the Futsal National League to take centre stage this weekend when the Southern Division Travelling Series is held at the ARA Institute of Canterbury in Christchurch.
For the full schedule and to view all results and standings, please click here
Futsal National League – Northern Division Travelling Series
AFF Futsal 7 (Shady Osman, Rudy Mozr, Sander Waterland, Kareem Osman 2, Stephen Ashby, Marvin Eakins)
Central Futsal-Hawke’s Bay 2 (Dylan Cozens, Harrison Gregory)
Northern Futsal 3 (Nikola Velkovski 2, Oliver Walsh)
WaiBOP Futsal 5 (Brayden Lissington, Bahram Ahmadi 3, Logan Wisnewski)
WaiBOP Futsal 4 (Shaun Morgan, Bahram Ahmadi, own goal, Liam Steffert)
AFF Futsal 4 (Marvin Eakins, Sander Waterland 2, Myron Manickum)
Central Futsal-Hawke’s Bay 5 (Tai Barham, Luke Maynard, Josh Bowie 3)
Northern Futsal 7 (Nikola Velkowski 2, Elliot Cooper, Daniel Culpan, Sam Emami, Christian Acosta, Camilo Garcia)
AFF Futsal 8 (Stephen Ashby 2, Arzan Todywalla 2, Jimmy Banks, Rudy Mozr, Adam Paulsen, Kareem Osman)
WaiBOP Futsal 3 (Logan Wisnewski, Brayden Lissington, Dominic O’Sullivan)
Northern Futsal 5 (Abdallah Amleh, Naji Ghamri, Daniel Culpan 2, Oliver Walsh)
Central Futsal-Hawke’s Bay 7 (Ethan Dent, Tai Barham, Harrison Gregory, Dylan Cozens 2, Luke Maynard, Rudi Bauerfeind)
Central Futsal-Hawke’s Bay 3 (Luke Maynard 2, Tai Barham)
AFF Futsal 3 (Jimmy Banks, Kareem Osman, Marvin Eakins)
WaiBOP Futsal 2 (Bahram Ahmadi, Brayden Lissington)
Northern Futsal 6 (Abdallah Amleh 2, Sam Emami, Tean Claud Tahieve, Camilo Garcia, Oban Hawkins)