Reid returns as Ferns find net

In great news for All Whites fans, inspirational captain Winston Reid has made his eagerly-awaited return from injury while Chris Wood received yet another personal accolade and several Football Ferns got on the scoresheet in Europe.

After recovering from a groin problem, Reid came back into the West Ham United side and played a key role in keeping a clean sheet as the Hammers drew nil-all with Everton in the English Premier League. Aside from getting out on the field once more, it was a memorable day for Reid, who captained the team and chalked up his 200th appearance for West Ham.

Wood’s hopes of joining his All Whites colleague in the top flight were meanwhile suffering a significant setback as Leeds United fell to a 2-1 defeat at Burton Albion, whose academy is managed by former Football Ferns assistant coach Danny Robinson. Wood found the net with a header early on but the goal was controversially ruled out for offside as Leeds dropped to seventh on the table, three points off the play-off places with only two matches remaining. There was more individual recognition for the division’s top scorer though, who was named in the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Championship Team of the Year two days earlier.

Elsewhere in the Championship, Tommy Smith has now firmly established himself in the first-team picture again at Ipswich Town after working his way back from injury and played 90 minutes as the Tractor Boys fell 1-0 to bottom-placed Rotherham United. With Ipswich safe from relegation but well out of the play-off running in 16th place, Smith and co have little to play for over the next couple of weeks but face a tough challenge this weekend as promotion-hunting Sheffield Wednesday come to town.

Outside of the major leagues, Smith’s Ipswich team mate Monty Patterson is still out of action through injury on loan at Braintree Town in the fifth-tier National League while Sam Brotherton was an unused substitute as the Sunderland U-23 team came from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1. Brotherton will hope to get some game time on Wednesday evening when Sunderland take on non-league Hebburn Town in a community fundraiser.

In the women’s game in England, it was a winning start for Anna Green in the top flight of the FA WSL Spring Series as Reading swept aside Bristol City 3-1. The Football Ferns defender played the full game as Reading stunned Bristol with a three-goal flurry in 12 minutes at the start of the second half. In the second division of the Spring Series, Olivia Chance stepped off the bench for Everton to fire home a stunning 25-yard equaliser late on that rescued a point for the Toffees in a 3-3 draw with Doncaster Rovers Belles.

Over in mainland Europe, Ryan Thomas was kept out of the starting line-up for PEC Zwolle due to a groin niggle and came on just after the hour but wasn’t able to prevent a 2-1 loss to Heracles. Zwolle have now gone five games without a win and need a few more points on the board to make sure they will be safe from relegation. Likewise affected by injury in the Netherlands was goalkeeper Tamati Williams, who picked up a problem during the warm-up as RKC Waalwijk prepared to take on SC Cambuur and was forced to withdraw. His side clearly missed the services of their big Kiwi as they fell to a 5-0 loss. Fellow All Whites custodian Stefan Marinovic took up his usual place between the sticks as SpVgg Unterhaching continued their promotion chase in the Regionalliga – the fourth tier of the German league system – with a 2-1 triumph over FC Memmingen.

Having more success than Thomas and Williams in Holland was Betsy Hassett, whose Ajax side is currently taking part in the four-team play-offs for the Eredivisie title and began in winning fashion with a 1-0 triumph over ADO Den Haag. There was plenty to celebrate for several of the other Football Ferns scattered across Europe with Kirsty Yallop, Ria Percival and Amber Hearn all getting on the scoresheet for their respective sides. Hearn’s early strike set USV Jena on their way to a 3-0 success over Borussia Monchengladbach in Germany’s Frauen Bundesliga while Yallop also didn’t take long to find the net, striking from the penalty spot in the 11th minute to help Klepp to a thrilling 4-2 win against Grand Bodo in the Norwegian Toppserien. Percival had to wait a bit longer for her goal, the marauding fullback pouncing with just over 20 minutes remaining in FC Basel’s 3-0 victory over Young Boys in the Swiss Nationalliga.

In Sweden, Hannah Wilkinson made her debut for Vittsjo GIK as a 71st-minute substitute but couldn’t help her new side hold onto the lead in a 1-1 draw with Ekilstuna United while Football Ferns captain Ali Riley took full part as FC Rosengard defeated Djurgardens IF 3-1.

A batch of Football Ferns and All Whites were also in the thick of the action across the Atlantic in America as the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) entered its second week and the male competitions also continued apace. Two Kiwis almost went head-to-head in the United Soccer League (USL) as Kip Colvey again lined up for Reno 1868 – an affiliate club to Colvey’s Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit San Jose Earthquakes – against the Colorado Sounds Switchbacks, who former All Whites midfielder Chris James now plays for. Colvey played the entirety of the game but James did not feature in the Switchbacks’ match day squad, thus missing out on an exciting 2-2 draw. Deklan Wynne was likewise not involved as the Vancouver Whitecaps second string fell 2-1 to San Antonio but fellow New Zealander Francis De Vries took full part at the heart of the defence.

In the NWSL, Rosie White led the way for the States-based Ferns with a commanding performance as the Boston Breakers accounted for Sky Blue FC 1-0 in their first match on home soil. White made her intentions clear early on by hitting a free kick from 20 yards out that Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was forced to tip over the bar and was later singled out by the Breakers’ supporters group as player of the match. The team of a fellow Fern will soon be in White’s sights with Boston next set to take on Rebekah Stott’s Seattle Reign, whose confidence will be high after a 5-1 outclassing of the Houston Dash. Stott was an unused substitute as the Reign moved up to second spot on the ladder in front of nearly 3,000 fans.

Keeping them off the top are the North Carolina Courage, who are captained by recently-retired former Football Ferns skipper Abby Erceg. The Courage, a newly-formed team, claimed a 1-0 win over the Portland Thorns in their inaugural home opener – which attracted a crowd of over 6,000 – with Erceg returning to the line-up after missing the first match due to injury. The only Kiwi not to toast a victory in the NWSL was Katie Bowen, who again got 90 minutes under her belt but was left empty-handed after a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Red Stars.

Over in South Africa, Jeremy Brockie proved the hero for SuperSport United as they eventually booked a place in the Nedbank Cup semi-finals after a penalty shoot-out win against Kaizer Chiefs. In a quarter-final that pitted holders SuperSport with the cup’s most successful side, Brockie opened the scoring in spectacular fashion on 73 minutes when volleying home a sweet left-foot strike from just inside the box. The Chiefs hit back soon after though and there was no further scoring in extra-time, allowing the 49-cap All White to net the match-winning penalty and earn his side a semi-final meeting with Chippa United. Michael Boxall also played his part by putting in a solid shift in the SuperSport defence while the Kiwi pair were both in the starting line-up again a few days later for a 1-0 win over Bidvest Wits in the Asba Premiership.

Closer to home in Australia, Marco Rojas and Jai Ingham enjoyed a week off from the Hyundai A-League but will soon need to switch back on to full concentration mode to face the Brisbane Roar in Sunday’s semi-final meeting. Loyalties will be split in the Ingham household with Jai set to come up against the team his younger brother, Dane Ingham, is looking to break into. Before that crucial clash, however, the Roar have another massive encounter to negotiate when they take on Thai champions Muangthong United later today in the AFC Champions League.

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