U23s: Birkenhead United too sharp for Navy Blues

Words: ACFC Media

Saturday 30 April 2022

Picture: Phototek

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Birkenhead United U-23 turned in a top class performance to beat Auckland City FC U-23s 5-1 and end the Navy Blues unbeaten start to the season at the Croatian Cultural Society today.

Coach Kris Bright was missing several key players with Matt Ellis, Riley Sexton, ever present Jesse Gage and Kristoff Muller all absent which meant a first ever start for defender Conan Reddy and striker Sam Clegg. 

The Shafiek Du Toit-coached Birkenhead team started the game at a breakneck speed which required goalkeeper Finn Dockerty to be at his best.

Unsuprisingly, the visitors opened the scoring from a dangerous long throw-in City failed to clear allowing Sam McIntosh to sweep the ball home from close range.

United kept up the relentless attack but were hit with a sucker punch when Thomas Holmes broke forward before picking out Sam Clegg who, in his first start for the Navy Blues U-23s, netted easily.

Clegg made seven appearances off the bench last season and three this but can now point to six goals across 11 appearances for Kris Bright's side.

Sadly, that statistical high point proved to be as good as it got for the Navy Blues after half time.

VIDEO - Sam Pepper scores for Birkenhead United

Sam Pepper put United in front eight minutes after the restart before Finn McKenlay wrapped a beautiful right foot curling shot beyond Dockerty midway through the second half.

Those goals broke the back of the game as far as City were concerned and there was more to come.

Substitute Dominic Hawkins added to the agony with his first, sublime, touch of the game, volleying spectacularly from the edge of the box to make it 4-1 with 15 minutes to go.

The icing on the cake was applied when another substitute, this time Shivam Nair, got in on the scoring act to wrap up a well-deserved 5-1 win that sees Birkenhead United jump two places into first.

Melville United U-23s also climb above City after they drew 1-1 with Western Springs U-23s.

On a tough day for the U-23s there were several performances that caught the eye with Holmes, Clegg, Dockerty, Rayan Tayeb and Louie Danielson all distinctive. 

Assistant coach Paul Drake admitted today's defeat was a sore one to take but gave Birkenhead United U-23s their due after a very good performance.

"Birkenhead United were very good and they were a lot better than us today. We learned a lot about our players today and I felt it was individual mistakes that ultimately cost us the game.

VIDEO - Finn Dockerty with two saves for City U-23s

"We got caught in transition a lot, something I dislike, and I made the point to our players that we needed to tighten that up.

"As you can see from the way the game turned out that didn't really eventuate.

"Picking the players up after a result like this isn't difficult.

"Both Kris and I know how good these players are but today we got hurt by not playing to our game plan.

"We didn't get a strike on goal in the second half and that's not the Auckland City FC way.

"We should be better than that. I hope the players reflect on that and are ready to go again on Tuesday," he said.

Ends

Match Result
Lotto NRFL U-23 Premier Division
Saturday 30 April 2022
Auckland City FC U-23 1 (Sam CLEGG 26')
Birkenhead United U-23 5 (Sam McINTOSH 11', Sam PEPPER 53', Finn McKENLAY 65', Dominic HAWKINS 73', Shivam NAIR 86')
HT: 1-1.

AC: 1. Finn DOCKERTY (GK), 5. Marcel STODDARD, 9. William ENG, 10. Thomas HOLMES (6. Migeul MURILLO 77'), 12. Conan REDDY (11. Max SUTTON 64'), 14. Sam CLEGG (17. Ethan FOO 77'), 15. Louie DANIELSON, 16. Rayan TAYEB, 19. Stipe UKICH (7. Liam QUINN 64'), 21. Ilham HAMEEDI, 23. Adam BELL (22. Woodie WILSON 77').

COACH: Kris BRIGHT.
ASSISTANT COACH: Paul DRAKE.

OTHER RESULTS - SATURDAY 30 APRIL 2022
Takapuna AFC U-23 2-2 Bay Olympic U-23
Melville United U-23 1-1 Western Springs U-23
Eastern Suburbs AFC U-23 1-5 Manukau United U-23
Hamilton Wanderers U-23 P-P North Shore United U-23
Auckland City FC U-23 1-5 Birkenhead United U-23

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