Words: ACFC Media
Friday 8 November 2019
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC face a must-win National Youth League showdown with Team Wellington as the mad-dash title race intensifies on Saturday.
The Junior Navy Blues are playing catch-up with league leaders Hamilton Wanderers and Waitakere United after losing to the latter 2-1 in the Super City derby three weeks ago.
With five rounds left to play and just three points separating the top four teams, every point is precious in a championship race only nine rounds long.
Coach Kris Bright guided his team to a 1-0 win over Hawke's Bay United last week and is eager to see that momentum continue against a Team Wellington side he has a healthy respect for.
"This game is like another final to us. The boys are keen to get back to the top of the table but the performance last week and the way we went about our game was very positive.
"We know what Team Wellington will be like. They've got a strong link with Western Suburbs, they're coached well and play a good style of football.
"We know what we're in for but at the same time there's a lot of players going into the first team squad.
"We haven't got that rythmn in training that we've wanted but the boys who have trained have been fantastic and they're raring to go.
"They know that if they want to win the league then they have to win big games like this," Bright told www.aucklandcityfc.com.
AUDIO - "Team Wellington is another final for us" - Kris Bright
Team Wellington's season has blown hot and cold in equal measure with wins over Southern United (2-1) and Hawke's Bay United (7-2) punctuated by defeats to Waitakere United (2-3) and Hamilton Wanderers (2-6).
Despite that inconsistent run of form, Team Wellington sit just three points outside the top four and a win over Auckland City FC would close that gap and keep their slim title hopes alive.
"We're trying to get more players into professional football but it's small steps for me as assistant coach to head coach.
"In the past we've had a pathway to professional football but mainly for our senior players with the likes of Tim Payne moving on to bigger things.
"My aim is to get the younger ones into the first team more often than not and hopefully get them into top senior football in New Zealand and let people like Danny Hay see them and progress into the All Whites.
"The hope must be for these boys to go and play professionally," he said.
Saturday's National Youth League game is at the Croatian Club in Te Atatu and kicks off at 2pm NZST.
National Youth League
Saturday 9 November 2019
Auckland City FC v Team Wellington
Croatian Club, Te Atatu
Kick-off: 2pm NZST
AC squad (chosen from): 1. Sam BOTTOMLEY (GK), 2. Nathan LOBO, 4. Nicholas MILICICH, 5. Dhanush CHANDRA, 6. Callum McNEILL, 7. Matthew HODGSON, 10. Matthew ELLIS, 11. Deandre VOLLENHOVEN, 13. Malcolm YOUNG, 16. Corban PIPER, 17. Thomas DRILLIEN, 18. Luca TAYLOR (GK), 19. Bradley WILSON, 20. Louis MIDDLEDORP, 21. Finn McCRACKEN, 23. Aidan CAREY.
Head coach: Kris BRIGHT
Assistant coach: Adam BANNISTER
Goalkeeper coach: Jacob SPOONLEY
Property Steward: Matthew FRANICH
Team Manager: Christian DAWSON
Saturday 9 November 2019
Tasman United v Waitakere United
Saxton Field, Nelson - kick-off 1pm NZST
Sunday 10 November 2019
Canterbury United v Southern United
English Park, Christchurch - kick-off: 11am NZST
Hamilton Wanderers v Eastern Suburbs AFC
Porritt Stadium, Hamilton - kick-off: 11am NZST
Wellington Phoenix v Hawke's Bay United
Porirua Park, Wellington - kick-off: 3.30pm NZST
Hawke's Bay United 3-6 Waitakere United
Wellington Phoenix 1-4 Canterbury United
Tasman United 0-2 Hamilton Wanderers
Auckland City FC 5-0 Eastern Suburbs AFC
Team Wellington 2-1 Southern United
Southern United 0-4 Auckland City FC
Waitakere United 3-2 Team Wellington
Eastern Suburbs AFC 2-4 Wellington Phoenix
Hamilton Wanderers 2-1 Hawke's Bay United
Canterbury United 1-5 Tasman United
Auckland City FC 1-2 Waitakere United
Tasman United 4-0 Eastern Suburbs AFC
Wellington Phoenix 0-2 Southern United
Canterbury United 2-3 Hamilton Wanderers
Team Wellington 7-2 Hawke's Bay United
Hawke's Bay United 0-1 Auckland City FC
Waitakere United 3-2 Wellington Phoenix
Team Wellington 2-6 Hamilton Wanderers
Eastern Suburbs 5-2 Canterbury United
Southern United 3-4 Tasman United
National Youth League Table here.