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Navy Blues U-23s win thriller in Hamilton

Words: ACFC Media

Saturday 15 May 2021

Picture: Phototek

HAMILTON, New Zealand - Melville United and Auckland City FC serve up entertaining game as Kris Bright's U-23s grab vital 5-2 win at picturesque Gower Park, Hamilton.

Auckland City FC U-23s featured four players with first team experience including ISPS Handa Premiership and OFC Champions League winners, Alfie Rogers and Reid Drake slotting in alongside youngsters Matt Ellis and Addison Stewart.

Stewart opened the scoring after a neat piece of combination play allowed him to slot past Conor Jamieson after 22 minutes but the home side equalised shortly after when Ryen Lawrence finished deftly beyond Finn Dockerty after a great first touch allowed him the space to shoot.

Brooklyn Heath went close with an opportunity not long after in a game high on both the technical and tactical elements.

Drake made his presence felt on the half hour mark when he slalomed through six challenges before playing a one-two with Matt Ellis then chipping Jamieson only for the young keeper to tip beyond for a corner.

The second half started with increased tempo from Melville United but it was City who had the ball in the net after a the visitors won the ball high in Melville's half only for Stewart's tap in to be disallowed for offside.

The home side stormed back to take the lead when Sean Leadley finished strongly past Dockerty near the hour mark.

The Navy Blues were denied an equaliser when Ellis brilliant curling shot was superbly tipped onto the post by Jamieson. The Melville United keeper was at it again when he denied a Drake's left foot shot low to his left.

Drake wasn't to be denied and capped off a superb show of skill and form when he danced through the Melville United U-23 defence to finish calmly beyond Jamieson.

Substitute Anthony Duncan nearly restored Auckland City FC U-23s earlier advantage when Drake set him up but the wide attacker could only hit the post.

With six minutes to go Finn McCracken hit the post at close range but smashed home the rebound to see City retake the lead but a serious injury for Melville United's Ethan Richards that required him to be stretchered off marred the day.

Coach Kris Bright was full of praise this week after the strong criticism of recent times describing it his team's best performance of the season against a side he rates as the toughest they've faced.

"Considering we were 2-1 down for quite a while today it was actually a good performance and the best we've played.

"Alfie and Reid both came down from the first team and that raised the level.

"They both came in and put in a very good shift. Its important they helped out with developing the younger players and they did that.

"Our decision making needs to improve but that's only going to come through getting more games.

"We get better when we want to work hard and that's when we do the right things.

"It was a very good game and Melville United were by far and away the best team we've played.

"We stuck to the game plan throughout the entire match probably for the first time this season and got our rewards," Bright said.

The U-23s next match is away to Eastern Suburbs U-23 at Madills Farm on Saturday 22 May, 2021.

The game kicks off at 12.30pm NZDT.


Match Result
Lotto NRFL U-23 Premier Division
Saturday 15 May 2021
Melville United U-23 2 (Ryen LAWRENCE 28', Sean LEADLEY 56')
Auckland City FC U-23 5 (Addison STEWART 22', Reid Drake 66', Finn McCRACKEN 85', 90+6', Dempsey THOMAS 90=+4')
HT: 1-1.

AC: 1. Finn DOCKERTY (GK), 2. Alfie ROGERS, 6. Wilson FISHER, 7. Brooklyn HEATH (5. Anthony DUNCAN 56'), 8. Alex SMITH (14. Dempsey THOMAS 84'), 9. Finn McCRACKEN, 11. Jeremiah RUAWHARE (10. Kristoff MULLER 50'), 12. Reid DRAKE, 16. Riley SEXTON, 20. Matt ELLIS, 21. Addison STEWART.



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