Pole position in the National Youth League continues to be held by Hamilton Wanderers but Waitakere United and Auckland City are not far off the pace with just three rounds remaining.
The leading trio all recorded significant victories in Round Six, as did capital pair the Wellington Phoenix and Team Wellington on a weekend in which no games were drawn and the losing sides were all kept scoreless.
Having most reason to celebrate were Waitakere and the Phoenix, who both earned impressive 5-0 wins over Tasman United and Southern United respectively. Each victor had a double scorer with Matt Conroy notching twice for the Phoenix and George Debenham doing likewise for Waitakere.
The other scorers for the Phoenix were William Ebbinge, Joe Bell and Ollie Whyte while Cheauxyan Maukau-McPhee, Jordan Hearn and Nathan Rollinson were all on target for Waitakere.
Tasman co-coach Davor Tavich admitted his side – which lost right-back Chester Gaskin early on due to concussion – were outclassed by the rampant west Aucklanders.
“They looked sharp, stronger and a bit more mature – they looked like a serious football team,” he said.
The remaining games all resulted in 2-0 outcomes, the most noteworthy being Wanderers’ success at home to Canterbury United, who had entered the weekend just behind the Hamiltonians in second place but now find themselves sixth. Neither side could trouble the scorers in the first half of the top-of-the-table clash but Stafford Dowling gave Wanderers the lead mid-way through the second and Lachlan McIsaac made sure of a vital three points in additional time.
Auckland City guaranteed they would be one of the sides clinging onto the leader’s coattails with their own two-goal triumph at Hawke’s Bay United. Needing to bounce back after conceding four goals in a disappointing loss to the Phoenix in the previous round, City couldn’t afford a slip-up against the only team yet to pick up any points but did not find the going easy in an even first half.
Any hopes the Bay had of securing their first positive result suffered a blow though when Ermal Fusha pounced just after the restart and Maro Bonsu-Maro then wrapped up the scoring just before the hour mark. There was further good news for Auckland City’s youth set-up when 18-year-old Sean Cooper was called up to the Navy Blues first team for next month’s FIFA Club World Cup.
“I’m very pleased with the performance, the players executed the game plan with great belief,” said coach Andy Peat. “We had to rise to the challenge in the second half and we did that. The players took ownership and responsibility for delivering our tactics which is pleasing given how often we’ve rotated the squad.”
Fellow Aucklanders Eastern Suburbs were desperate to join their local rivals in toasting a win but were instead left to ponder a fourth straight defeat, this time at home to Team Wellington.
The visitors did not take long to make their mark, Ihaia Delaney and Callum McCowatt both finding the net within the first ten minutes to put them 2-0 up. Wellington weren’t able to add to that advantage but went on to close out the win, despite playing over half the match with only 10 men after the dismissal of Dalton Wilkins in the 39th minute.
“They had a little bit more quality in the first half when they had 11 players on the park and it showed,” admitted Suburbs coach Hoani Edwards. “They played very good football and we were slow to get up to the pace of the game. Once they went down to 10 men, we knew we were going to have most of the possession but we just needed that cutting edge up front.”
The National Youth League returns this weekend with the seventh round, for more information and to view the full fixtures and standings please click here
National Youth League – Round Six
Wellington Phoenix 5 (Matt Conroy 36’, 42’, William Ebbinge 56’, Joe Bell 60’, Ollie Whyte 66’)
Southern United 0
Waitakere United 5 (George Debenham 15’, 27’, Cheauxyan Maukau-McPhee 59’, Jordan Hearn 64’, Nathan Rollinson 80’)
Tasman United 0
Eastern Suburbs 0
Team Wellington 2 (Ihaia Delaney 5’, Callum McCowatt 9’)
Hawke’s Bay United 0
Auckland City 2 (Ermal Fusha 47’, Maro Bonsu-Maro 58’)
Hamilton Wanderers 2 (Stafford Dowling 66’, Lachlan McIsaac 90’ + 1’)
Canterbury United 0