Words: ACFC Media
Saturday 7 May 2022
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Manukau United U-23 came from a two goal deficit to snatch a deserved 2-2 draw with Auckland City FC U-23 at Walter Massey Park today.
Coach Kris Bright restored Riley Sexton and Jesse Gage to the starting eleven alongside two players with first team experience in Matt Ellis and Liam Gillion but the home side's grit proved the deciding factor on a beautiful day in South Auckland.
Sexton made an immediate impact when his header gave the Navy Blues the lead on 12 minutes and they were further ahead after an Ellis goal just after the half hour mark.
Manukau United sat back and allowed the Navy Blues plenty of the ball but that pattern halted abruptly when Vishay Reddy pounced on a shot that ricocheted off Finn Dockerty's crossbar to half the deficit.
That proved a key moment in the game as United poured everything into their search for an equaliser.
City were equally dangerous but only in fits and starts in the second half and their lack of ruthlessness in front of goal ultimately cost them when substitute Luka Vlasic turned the ball into his own net with eight minutes left.
The match swung from end to end amd turned into a very transitional experience with each team trading blows in a frantic end to a fragmented game.
Skipper Gage was unhappy with the nature of the Navy Blues performance and described it as flat.
"We put in the effort but we didn't move the ball quickly enough, one and two touches and we didn't keep the ball enough.
"We need to move teams around enough and we've made some bad decisions on the ball and we were very average today.
"When they scored their first goal we lacked communication and hard work needed to stop that.
"Manukau were up after that and we were flat.
"We sat on the 2-1 lead and didn't threaten them after that.
"I couldn't tell you why we played that way.
"Our mentality wasn't strong enough and it's not fully there right now.
"We need to show more desire to win and not go out there and try to do just enough.
"We need to be more clinical in front of goal and we are 100 percent not ruthless enough when we need to be.
"We have created chances but they aren't going in the net like they should be," he said.
Despite the setback, Auckland City FC remained in the top three after Birkenhead United and Takapuna AFC drew 1-1 and Melville United drew 2-2 with Auckland United FC to keep the top four all within three points of each other.
Manukau United stay in fifth.
At the bottom end of the table, North Shore United lost 2-0 at home to Waiheke United, Bay Olympic defeated Hamilton Wanderers 4-3 and Western Springs were too strong for Eastern Suburbs AFC beating the Lilywhites 4-2.
Lotto NRFL U-23 Premier Division
Saturday 7 May 2022
Manukau United U-23 2 (Vishal REDDY 45'+2', Luka VLASIC OG 82')
Auckland City FC U-23 2 (Riley SEXTON 12', Matt ELLIS 32')
AC: 1. Finn DOCKERTY (GK), 2. Jesse GAGE (c), 3. Riley SEXTON (8. Anthony DUNCAN 66'), 5. Marcel STODDARD (4. Luka VLASIC 78'), 7. Liam QUINN (11. Max SUTTON 59'), 9. Will ENG (6. Miguel MURILLO 78'), 10. Matt ELLIS, 15. Louie DANIELSON (12. Colin HOLTHUIS-SPANN 59'), 16. Rayan TAYEB, 19. Liam GILLION, 23. Adam BELL.
COACH: Kris BRIGHT.
ASSISTANT: Paul DRAKE.
SATURDAY 7 MAY 2022 - OTHER RESULTS
North Shore United 0-2 Waiheke United
Bay Olympic 4-3 Hamilton Wanderers
Birkenhead United 1-1 Takapuna AFC
Manukau United 2-2 Auckland City FC
Western Springs 4-2 Eastern Suburbs AFC
Melville United 2-2 Auckland United FC
v Wellington Olympic, 11 March 2023, KO: TBC