Hamilton Wanderers and Canterbury United have capitalised on slip-ups by the Auckland-based trio in the National Youth League to lead the way with just under half the campaign to go.
The fifth round of the nine-round competition took place over the weekend and resulted in key wins for the Wanderers and Dragons, while Southern United and Wellington Phoenix were likewise able to celebrate victories, both coming out on the right side of 4-2 scorelines.
In contrast, Auckland City, Waitakere United and Eastern Suburbs – who have all appeared title contenders at various stages of the season – all failed to pick up three points, Waitakere emerging as the only side from the City of Sails to take anything from the round after a scoreless draw at Team Wellington.
The most impressive performers were Canterbury, who went on the goal rampage in Christchurch to sweep aside the challenge of Hawke’s Bay United with a commanding 8-0 success. Daniel Thoms and Lyle Matthysen both notched doubles while Simon Chretien struck from the spot as Jacob Richards, Callum Smith and Nik Moljin also found the target.
The Bay’s misery was complete when Dylan Du Ross was sent off with just a few minutes remaining.
The remarkable win lifted the Dragons to second on the table but they trail Wanderers by two points after the Hamiltonians accounted for Tasman United 2-0. Both goals came in the first half in Nelson as Daniel Edwards bulged the net midway through before Raheem Hunter-Ali completed the scoring in additional time.
Snapping at the heels of the top two are Waitakere and Auckland, the former of whom will be more pleased with their efforts after at least bringing a point back from the capital. City also faced a Wellington-based side but had home advantage as the talented Phoenix youngsters came to town.
In an encounter high on entertainment and technical prowess, the Junior Navy Blues suffered their first defeat of the season on what was a disappointing day for the club – the first team also fell to a loss to the Phoenix U-20s in the Stirling Sports Premiership.
The hosts started brightly when a Jack Anderson header gave them an early lead but that advantage was only briefly held and Matthew Conroy equalised for the Phoenix almost immediately. Oliver Whyte extended the visitors’ lead on the hour mark and the points were made safe when Sam Sutton converted a penalty in the middle of the second half.
Moses Akimana popped up with a consolation goal for the Junior Navy Blues before Jake Williams was sent off for the Phoenix late on.
The round’s other fixture also ended 4-2 and was a bit of an eyebrow-raiser as Southern earned their second win of the campaign in Dunedin by accounting for Eastern Suburbs, who had begun their debut season so well and led the league in the early weeks.
Most of the damage was done by the home side in the first half as Ryan Fleming hit a brace to bookend a lone Connor Neil strike. Suburbs gave themselves hope through Dane Schnell just after the hour but Riley Anderton made sure of the points with 20 minutes remaining before Dylan Bull gave the Aucklanders a late consolation in stoppage time.
The result means Suburbs have now dropped to eighth on the ladder, ahead of only fellow debutants Tasman and Hawke’s Bay, who remain the only side in the competition without any points to their name.
The National Youth League returns this weekend with the sixth round, for more information and to view the full fixtures and standings please click here
National Youth League – Round Five
Southern United 4 (Ryan Fleming 19’, 41’, Connor Neil 40’, Riley Anderton 70’)
Eastern Suburbs 2 (Dane Schnell 61’, Dylan Bull 90’ + 2’)
Team Wellington 0
Waitakere United 0
Tasman United 0
Hamilton Wanderers 2 (Daniel Edwards 22’, Raheem Hunter-Ali 45’ + 1’)
Canterbury United 8 (Daniel Thoms 12’, 51’, Jacob Richards 14’, Lyle Matthysen 18’, 44’, Simon Chretien 40’ pen, Callum Smith 69’, Nik Moljin 83’)
Hawke’s Bay United 0
Auckland City 2 (Jack Anderson 12’, Moses Akimana 86’)
Wellington Phoenix 4 (Matthew Conroy 13’, 18’, Oliver Whyte 58’, Sam Sutton 65’ pen)