Words: ACFC Media
Friday 29 April 2022
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC face its toughest test of the season so far when Birkenhead United come to Kiwitea Street on Saturday.
The Paul Hobson-coached United have swept all before them racking up five wins and just one defeat from their six games and look in top form ahead of tomorrow.
Youngster Cameron McKenzie was in fine fettle netting a hat-trick in a 4-0 demolition job of Eastern Suburbs last week and City coach Albert Riera is a big fan of the work Hobson and his club have done over the years.
"Birkenhead United and Paul Hobson in particular are well-known for the development of very young, very talented players.
"Alex Grieve is a very good example of the work they have accomplished as well as Alex himself, of course.
"Alex had a couple of very good seasons in the domestic set-up and it's very encouraging to see players going from this level into professional football and doing so well," he told www.aucklandcityfc.com.
PREVIEW - #NavyBlues eye up @BUAFC_NZ— Auckland City FC (@AucklandCity_FC) April 29, 2022
City face its toughest test of the #NZNationalLeague season so far when Birkenhead United come to Kiwitea Street on Saturday.
Full Preview herehttps://t.co/kXQsR9BwBr pic.twitter.com/M4X3bbtmNZ
Auckland City FC picked up former United left back Nathan Lobo off Birkenhead United over the summer and along with Grieve, United have lost a few players from last season's impressive campaign.
"Birkenhead United have proved in the past how good they are at recruiting players through their ranks of their Academy as they're proving so far in the Lotto NRFL U-23 Premier Division and Northern League.
"They're a team that are winning games, scoring a lot of goals and they're a team that are very uncomfortable to play against, especially in transition.
"These games produced a lot of goals last season and they showed how dangerous they can be when Auckland City FC lost 4-3 at Shepherd's Park in the last game of 2021.
"The Chatham Cup match ended in a penalty shoot-out win for City after a 3-3 draw which demonstrates the challenge ahead of us very clearly.
"Birkenhead are very fast and very good at the counter attack their transition is very very good so we have to makie sure we control that with the right decisions, extra passes and knowing when to attack and where to attack.
"We've spent the whole week at training working on this aspect of our game in that regard," Riera said.
Angus Kilkolly scored a hat-trick taking his tally up to six in as many games while Emiliano Tade and Sam Brotherton have three each.
Ryan De Vries has scored twice since his return to the club.
With City in top of the table form and scoring goals freely, and from all areas of the pitch, Riera downplayed any suggestion there was a magical formula to his team's high return in front of goal.
"We have been scoring a lot of goals but we haven't really been doing anything different than in previous weeks.
"We just keep doing what we are doing, and in regards of goalscoring, if you keep creating chances, which is the hardest thing in football, you sooner or later, with the talent and the quality that we have, get your rewards.
"It's been proven over the last weeks. The main thing about chance creation and scoring chances is to not get too anxious about scoring goals or to get frustrated.
"Our aim is to keep creating opportunities and that's been happening for us so far," he said.
Auckland City FC is expected to pick its strongest possible line-up for this game with the exception of De Vries who is expected to require a late fitness test.
"Ryan has some doubt to be involved in the game but it is something we are monitoring closely and will probably make a late decision on closer to the game," Riera said.
Auckland City FC U-23 have started the season in similar fashion to the men's first team but face a stiff challenge from third placed Birkenhead United U-23s at Croatian Cultrual Society on Saturday at 12.00pm NZDT.
Second place Melville United U-23s take on eighth placed Western Springs. Only a single point separates Auckland City FC, Melville United and Birkenhead United in the Lotto NRFL U-23 Premier Division title race.
Saturday 30 April 2022
Auckland City FC v Birkenhead United
Kiwitea Street, Sandringham
Kick-off: 3.00pm NZDT
AC (squad to be finalised from): 1. Conor TRACEY (GK), 2. Mario ILICH, 3. Adam MITCHELL, 4. Christian GRAY, 5. Angel BERLANGA (c), 7. Cam HOWIESON, 8. Gerard GARRIGA, 9. Angus KILKOLLY, 10. Dylan MANICKUM, 11. Ryan DE VRIES, 12. Sam BROTHERTON, 13. Nathan LOBO, 14. Jordan VALE, 15. Aidan CAREY, 16. Joe LEE, 17. Reid DRAKE, 18. 19. Liam GILLION, 20. Emiliano TADE, 21. Ilham HAMEEDI, 22. Kristoff MULLER, 23. Alfie ROGERS, 24. Cam BROWN (GK).
COACH: Albert RIERA
ASSISTANT COACH: Ivan VICELICH
GOALKEEPER COACH: Enaut ZUBIKARAI
MANAGER: Keith COTON
ANALYST: Adria CASALS
PHYSIO: Matt PAYNE
REFEREE: Matt CONGER
ASSISTANT REFEREE 1: Mark RULE
ASSISTANT REFEREE 2: Glen LOCHRIE
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.
Birkenhead United and Auckland City FC met three times last season, twice in the Northern League and once in the Chatham Cup, and with no shortage of goals or excitement. The Navy Blues demolished Birkenhead United 5-0 at Kiwitea Street in their first ever meeting but were met with stiff resistance in subsequent encounters. That included a six-goal Cup thriller at Shepherd's Park with the Navy Blues advancing to the last eight on penalties. Birkenhead United inflicted defeat in the return league encounter with a dramatic 4-3 win at home thanks to a double by Alex Grieve and goals for Ardri McArthur and Luke Jorgensen.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Birkenhead United skipper and former Navy Blues FIFA Club World Cup hero and midfielder Sam Burfoot is the beating heart of a youthful team. Burfoot won ISPS Handa Premiership, OFC Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup medals during his time at Kiwitea Street. The 29-year-old is in top form this season with two goals to his name including winners against Bay Olympic (1-0) and in the derby with North Shore United (2-1).
08.05.21 v. Birkenhead United (H) won 5-0 (Cam HOWIESON, Angus KILKOLLY 2, Andrew BLAKE, Ilham HAMEEDI)
14.08.21 v. Birkenhead United (A) lost 3-4 (Cam HOWIESON, Jordan VALE, Angus KILKOLLY | Ardri McARTHUR, Luke JORGENSEN, Alex GRIEVE 2)
11.07.21 v. Birkenhead United (A) drew 3-3 (Cam HOWIESON, Angus KILKOLLY, Jordan VALE | Alex CONNOR-McLEAN 2, Sanni ISSA)
v Al Ahly, Tangier, Feb 1 2023, KO: 8pm local