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Vicelich praises unique Birkenhead atmosphere

Words: ACFC Media

Friday 13 August 2021

Picture: Phototek

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - All Whites and Navy Blues legend Ivan Vicelich says Birkenhead United's 'real football atmosphere' provides the perfect backdrop to tomorrow's Northern League clash at Shepherd's Park.

The Navy Blues can wrap up their maiden Northern League title with a point but they face a United side motivated by securing a top four finish, presumably eager to avoid a title celebration on their own patch and hungry for payback after their Chatham Cup exit to City.

Vicelich has nothing but positives to say about one of the most colourful venues in the Northern League.

"Birkenhead United have a team that's been together for a decent length of time, they battle, they work hard for each other and they have a great set-up and environment and support which creates a proper football atmosphere.

"I enjoy seeing their junior and senior community sides playing and then sticking around to support their first team which is great. The clubrooms generates a lot of energy during the game and that's always good for their team.

"Teams always lift their game when they play Auckland City FC, we expect it all the time and its up to us to match that with an inner strength to meets that challenge," he said.

Last time out, the two sides produced a six-goal Chatham Cup thrill ride that ended in a penalty kick victory for the Navy Blues and Vicelich expects United to come out roaring.

"Birkenhead United will give us a tough game, we've played them twice already this season and know what they bring to the table.

"The win in the Chatham Cup was a good day for us and we played well in what was a typical Cup tie. We want to go there again and get the same outcome.

"There are question marks over a couple of players availability but we're looking to get the same sort of performance as last time," he said.

The Navy Blues camp will be eager to wrap up the title and turn Tuesday's catch-up game with Western Springs at Seddon Field into an opportunity to rotate the squad and perhaps experiment with one or two selections.

Vicelich says winning the Northern League title was important but was at pains to emphasise that it fits into a much larger optic with the National League Championship set to start in the last part of the year.

"Its a difficult week for us, we've got Western Springs on Tuesday and we're carrying some niggles so we will try to rotate where we can. Our squad has performed well when called upon and that's what we'll need this week.

"If we get a win to seal the title this week, then that would be a great achievement for the players. They've worked hard in strange circumstances. We came straight in off the summer without any real meaningful break and so we've been going for 8-9 months and there's the National Championship round to come.

"The players deserve a lot of credit for their endurance over that timeframe. If we can win the Northern League title, it will be a good achievement but we need to recognise that there's more to come in the latter part of this year.

"Refocusing on the summer is going to be critical. There's a two week break between the end of the Northern League campaign and the start of the next which is short but useful in a way because its essential we don't power down as if its a whole new off-season.

"The players will take a short break and recharge mentally but physically its not too big a break. We'll take that time period as it comes but for now we need to look at what we need to do tomorrow at Shepherd's Park."

In U-23 action, the chase for the Lotto NRFL U-23 Premier Division reaches a thrilling point when Kris Bright's side take on nearest challengers Birkenhead United U-23 at Shepherd's Park at 12.30pm NZDT.

Just four rounds remain in the league title chase with only a point seperating the two sides at the top of the table.

Ends

Match Result
Northern League
Saturday 14 August 2021
Birkenhead United v Auckland City FC
Shepherd's Park, Birkdale
Kick-off: 3.00pm NZDT

AC: 24. Cam BROWN (GK), 2. Mario ILICH, 3. Adam MITCHELL, 4. Mario BILEN, 7. Cam HOWIESON (c), 8. Adam THURSTON, 9. Angus KILKOLLY, 10. Dylan MANICKUM, 11. Reid DRAKE, 12. Sam BROTHERTON, 14. Jordan VALE, 17. Andrew BLAKE, 18. Conor TRACEY (GK), 20. Addison STEWART, 21. Ilham HAMEEDI, 23. Alfie ROGERS.

COACH: José FIGUEIRA
ASSISTANT COACH: Ivan VICELICH
GK COACH: Enaut ZUBIKARAI
PHYSIO: Matt PAYNE
TEAM MANAGER: Keith COTON
S&C COACH: Adria CASALS
ANALYST: Jarrod WALLACE
ANALYST: Dan GORDON

OTHER FIXTURES

FRIDAY 13 AUGUST 2021
Western Springs v Bay Olympic

SATURDAY 14 AUGUST 2021
North Shore United v Auckland United
Allen Hill Stadium - kick-off: 3.00pm NZDT

West Coast Rangers v Manukau United
Fred Taylor Park - kick-off: 3.00pm NZDT

Melville United v Eastern Suburbs AFC
Gower Park - kick-off: 3.00pm NZDT

Hamilton Wanderers v Northern Rovers FC
Porritt Stadium - kick-off: 3.00pm NZDT

TUESDAY 17 AUGUST 2021
Western Springs v Auckland City FC
Seddon Field - kick-off: 7.30pm NZDT

Hamilton Wanderers v Bay Olympic
Porritt Stadium - kick-off: 3.00pm NZDT

ABOUT BIRKENHEAD UNITED AFC
The club was established as Birkenhead in 1960 before it amalgamated with Birkdale in 1963 taking its current name as Birkenhead United. Since 1965, Birkenhead have mainly played either in Division 1 or Division 2 of the Northern League though they twice early on, made it into Premier Division in 1968 and 1970, only to be relegated again that same year. They also had one of their best early runs in the 1970 Chatham Cup, making it to the 5th round before losing to Eden 1–4.They wouldn't repeat that success in the cup again until 2010. Again going down in the 5th round, this time to Glenfield Rovers. Birkenhead started to see more success in the 2010s, with them again making the Premier Division in 2013 and they have stayed there since. They have just missed out on winning the division four times in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.

THE CHATHAM CUP
The success in the local league was also replicated in the Chatham Cup, where in 2012 and 2013 they made the quarter-finals.2015 they made the semi-finals, only losing 3–4 on penalties to Napier City Rovers, before they finally won the cup in 2016, beating local rivals Waitakere City 3–2 in extra time. They wouldn't have to wait very long before they won the cup again, when in the 2018 Chatham Cup, they made the finals. This time they were facing Wellington side Western Suburbs and after 120 minutes the score was tied 1–1 before Birkenhead prevailed on penalties 5–4 to claim the cup for a second time in three years.

PREVIOUS MEETINGS
Birkenhead United and Auckland City FC have met twice this season, once in the Northern League at Kiwitea Street and once in the Chatham Cup at Shepherd's Park. City won the first game 5-0 with goals from Cam Howieson, Angus Kilkolly (2), Ilham Hameedi and Andrew Blake. In the second, the teams served up a six goal thriller with Howieson, Kilkolly and Jordan Vale scoring for City in a 3-3 draw that eventually saw the Navy Blues win the tie on penalty kicks.

Northern League
v. Birkenhead United (H) won 5-0 (Cam HOWIESON, Angus KILKOLLY 2, Andrew BLAKE, Ilham HAMEEDI)

Chatham Cup
v. Birkenhead United (A) drew 3-3 (Cam HOWIESON, Angus KILKOLLY, Jordan VALE | Alex CONNOR-McLEAN 2, Sanni ISSA)

CURRENT FORM

v. Northern Rovers (A) won 2-1
v. Hamilton Wanderers (H) lost 0-3
v. West Coast Rangers (A) won 4-0
v. Western Springs (A) lost 0-2
v. North Shore United (A) won 3-2
v. Eastern Suburbs (A) lost 2-4
v. Melville United (H) won 9-0
v. Auckland City FC (A) lost 0-5
v. Auckland United (H) lost 0-1
v. Bay Olympic (A) won 3-0
v. Manukau United (H) drew 2-2
v. Franklin United (A) won 6-0 - Chatham Cup 3rd Round
v. Northern United (H) drew 1-1
v. Auckland United (H) won 1-0 - Chatham Cup 4th Round
v. Hamilton Wanderers (A) drew 3-3
v. Auckland City FC (H) drew 3-3 - Chatham Cup 5th Round
v. West Coast Rangers (H) won 3-1
v. Western Springs (H) lost 2-3
v. North Shore United (H) won 7-1
v. Eastern Suburbs AFC (H) won 2-1
v. Melville United (A) won 3-0

PLAYER TO WATCH
Alex Grieve has set the Northern League alight with a string of fine performances that includes a total of 17 goals. Alex Connor-McLean with six league goals and former Navy Blues Club World Cup hero Sanni Issa with eight have provided firm support.

BIGGEST WIN
Birkenhead United 12-1 Mount Albert-Ponsonby, 2012.

BIGGEST DEFEAT
Birkenhead United 3-12 Kawerau Town, 1996.

HONOURS
Chatham Cup winners - 2016, 2018
Lotto NRFL Division 1 winners - 2012
Lotto NRFL Division 2 winners - 1980

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