Preview - Squad rotation key over Easter

Words: ACFC Media

Thursday 1 April 2021

Picture: Phototek

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Squad rotation is key as Jose Figueira plots Auckland City FC's course through a bumper Easter weekend that features showdowns with Manukau United and Northern Rovers.

The Navy Blues match with Bay Olympic was postponed on Saturday 27 March and the Kiwitea Street side now prepare for their debut in the regional leagues with a home clash against Kevin Fallon's Manukau United on Friday.

Manukau United were rolled over by Melville United on the opening day of the season with the Hamiltonians winning 5-3 on a pristine Gower Park surface.

Figueira says his team has rested, trained well and is eager to get started on the new campaign.

"We always knew coming off the back of the ISPS Handa Premiership season it was going to be a quick turn around. We've got a big squad and we want to be in a position where we can utilise that squad.

"We were ready to play the opening round against Bay Olympic however for a couple of reasons, including limited ground availability, the game couldn't go ahead.

"That's given us an extra week to prepare for what is our first game in the Northern League against Manukau United," he said.

Manukau United enter their fourth season in the top flight of Northern League football following their arrival on the scene in 2018 and Figueira expects the South Aucklanders to be a difficult opponent.

"Manukau have come off a disappointing result and Kevin will have them regrouped, ready and raring to go at Kiwitea Street. We've worked hard this week to make sure we're on our game and ready to kick off with a positive result," he said.

Auckland City FC will be without Maro Bonsu-Maro and Kayne Vincent with the former returning to Manukau United and the latter still figuring out his future away from Kiwitea Street.

"Both Kayne and Maro have moved on off the back of the Premiership season. Unfortunately for Maro he couldn't quite get a run of games under his belt. When he did play he picked up some injuries and he couldn't get consistent form and translate that from training into games.

"The discussion was easy and Maro wanted to return to Manukau United, he played for them last season, he wants to get a run of games and rebuild his confidence - there were no dramas with him as far as getting his future sorted.

"Kayne's situation was slightly different and he wanted to reassess things carefully. He came in late in the piece last season and while he was getting up to speed he was on the fringes and he's now exploring a couple of other options in the winter season," Figueira added.

With the Navy Blues squad turning over and a core group of players already playing anywhere between 14-17 games, Figueira will look to rotate his team this weekend.

"We'll definitely be using the full squad with two games in four days. Its a quick turn around in between so we want to keep things fresh. We want to put in high intensity performances and the way we want to play means we have to have everyone fully fit and fresh.

"A good deep squad allows us to do that. Not only that, we're coming off the back of a long summer having reached the ISPS Handa Premiership grand final. The Northern league is coming at us thick and fast, Chatham Cup is around the corner, so its important we utilise our squad and give people opportunities, continue their momentum, and at the appropriate time allow them to freshen up and have mini breaks," he told

Auckland City FC and Manukau United have met just once previously when the clubs played a pre-season friendly at Centre Park last October with goals by Jordan Vale and Abdulbaset Khalifa giving the Navy Blues a comfortable 2-0 win.

Two former Navy Blues players feature in Kevin Fallon's United squad with Maro Bonsu-Maro and Abdulbaset Khalifa signing for the South Aucklanders, Bonsu-Maro last week and Khalifa during the January transfer window.

Friday's game kicks off at 3pm NZDT at Kiwitea Street.

U-23 in action

The Auckland City FC U-23 side is also in action over the Easter Weekend with coach Kris Bright preparing his team for two similarly difficult clashes with Manukau United and Northern Rovers. The U-23 face Manukau United U-23 at the Croatian Club in Te Atatu at 12.30pm NZDT on Friday and then take on Northern Rovers at McFetridge Park on Monday also with a 12.30pm NZDT kick off scheduled.


Match Details
Northern League
Friday 2 April 2021
Auckland City FC v Manukau United FC
Kiwitea Street, Sandringham
Kick-off: 3pm NZDT

AC: 24. Cam BROWN (GK), 2. Mario ILICH, 3. Adam MITCHELL, 4. Mario BILEN, 6. Brian KALTAK, 7. Cam HOWIESON (c),  9. Angus KILKOLLY, 10. Dylan MANICKUM, 11. Reid DRAKE, 13. Deandre VOLLENHOVEN, 14. Jordan VALE, 15. Aidan CAREY, 16. Yousif AL-KALISY, 17. Andrew BLAKE, 18. Conor TRACEY (GK), 20. Emiliano TADE, 22. Mohamed AWAD, 23. Alfie ROGERS, 25. Matt ELLIS, 26. Ilham HAMEEDI, 27. Addison STEWART, 28. Fadeen MOHAMMED.



Manukau United Football Club is a community-led partnership project providing an accessible pathway from grassroots to elite football in South Auckland. The club's community engagement programmes connects with thousands of school students annually and United work with a wide range of organisations, businesses and community groups to achieve positive community outcomes. Manukau United believes diversity is a strength and hopes to inspire other clubs, codes and sporting bodies to embrace a more inclusive and equitable sporting environment for everyone in Aotearoa.


The club was formed following a merger between Mangere United and Manukau City in 2018. They finished a creditable fourth place in their breakout season in the Lotto NRFL Premier Division and followed it up with a mid-table finish in 2019. Manukau United finished fifth in last year's Lotto NRFL Premier Division with the Kevin Fallon-coached side picking up three wins, two draws and two defeats in a campaign ended abruptly by Covid-19 lockdowns in Auckland.


They have had two Chatham Cup runs with their first in 2018 ended by Cashmere Technical in the sixth round after United had defeated Hamilton Wanderers (3-1), Three Kings United (3-0) and Mount Albert Ponsonby (3-1) in previous rounds. In 2019, Manukau United thrashed Onerahi 13-0 in their Third Round tie, defeated Glenfield Rovers 4-2 before bowing out to Bay Olympic (0-3) in the Fifth Round.

18.10.20 v Manukau United FC (A) won 2-0 (Jordan VALE, Abdulbaset KHALIFA)

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