Hamilton Wanderers have taken over from fellow debutants Eastern Suburbs at the top of the National Youth League but it’s a tight fit below that with second-placed Auckland City just one point ahead of Waitakere United, Wellington Phoenix and Suburbs, who are all tied for third with just goal difference separating them.
The third round of action took place over the weekend and brought a pair of eyebrow-raising results with Wanderers sticking six strikes past the previously unbeaten Suburbs while Team Wellington also went on the goal rampage, nearly hitting double figure in defeating Hawke’s Bay United 9-0.
It was Ihaia Delaney who did most of the damage for the capital men, finding the net four times before the half-time whistle in a remarkable display of lethal finishing. Aaron McDonald was also on target as the hosts went into the sheds five goals to the good and the outlook didn’t get much better for the Bay in the second half. Elijah Just helped himself to a brace while Ben Ratahi also got on the scoresheet before Cameron Wardlaw completed the rout in stoppage time.
Wanderers didn’t quite reach those heights but will be delighted with their efforts nonetheless after bringing Suburbs back down to earth in some style. Hamilton had the assistance of first-team player Marc Evans – each club is allowed to field two members of its Stirling Sports Premiership squad – and he made a significant impact after captain Liam Hayes had opened the scoring from the spot. Evans struck mid-way through the first half and added his second in the last minute of regulation time at the end of the game.
By that stage, the match was well out of Suburbs’ reach as goals from Stafford Dowling, Sean Skeens and Raheem Hunter-Ali had blown the scoreline out. Suburbs managed a late consolation through Frank Clark to make it 6-1 on what was a disappointing weekend for the club with the seniors also giving up their unbeaten record in the Stirling Sports Premiership.
“We’re disappointed but we said to the boys that we have to take some learnings out of today’s performance,” Suburbs coach Hoani Edwards said. “They were set up to hurt us on the counter and we felt they were just a little bit more desperate on defence than we were. We switched off at the wrong times and it seemed like every time they attacked they scored.”
There were also plenty of goals down in Nelson, where Tasman United scored twice but couldn’t prevent a 3-2 loss to the Wellington Phoenix. Late goals were a feature there too after the Phoenix took a slender 1-0 lead into the break courtesy of Matt Conroy.
The home side found an equaliser soon after the restart through Tinashe Marowa but Conroy took control of proceedings in the final 10 minutes, adding two further goals to earn a hat-trick and give the Phoenix a 3-1 lead that proved unassailable, although Tasman did manage to hit back via Labu Pan in stoppage time.
It was the third consecutive one-goal defeat that Tasman have suffered in the competition after losing 6-5 to Canterbury United and 2-1 to Auckland City.
“We rued a number of missed chances,” Tasman co-coach Andy Morris said. “We need to learn to be more clinical in front of goal, it’s as simple as that.”
Waitakere were the other side able to celebrate an away win after toppling Southern United 2-1, Mitchell Nash and Drew Farnsworth turning things around for the west Aucklanders after Ben Wade had put the hosts in front.
There were no goals in Christchurch as Canterbury United and Auckland City fought out a scoreless draw, just as their first-team counterparts did later at Kiwitea Street.
Despite dropping points for the first time this season, Auckland coach Andy Peat was relatively happy with the result.
“The team is definitely improving week-by-week and executing what we’ve been working on in training,” he said. “Overall, the performance was positive and we’ll keep growing as we head into our next match.”
The National Youth League returns this weekend with Round Four, for more information and to view the full fixtures and standings please click here
National Youth League Round Three
Team Wellington 9 (Ihaia Delaney 7’, 16’, 36’, 44’, Aaron McDonald 25’, Elijah Just 51’, 85’, Ben Ratahi 61’, Cameron Wardlaw 90 + 1’)
Hawke’s Bay United 0
Southern United 1 (Ben Wade 25’)
Waitakere United 2 (Mitchell Nash 43’, Drew Farnsworth 60’)
Canterbury United 0
Auckland City 0
Eastern Suburbs 1 (Frank Clark 93’)
Hamilton Wanderers 6 (Liam Hayes pen 14’, Marc Evans 20’, 90’, Stafford Dowling 25’, Sean Skeens 64’, Raheem Hunter-Ali 70’)
Tasman United 2 (Tinashe Marowa 50’, Labu Pan 90’ + 5’)
Wellington Phoenix 3 (Matt Conroy 36’, 85’, 89’)