Words: ACFC Media
Sunday 7 August 2022
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC U-23's grip on the Lotto NRFL U-23 Premier Division title suffered a slip up after a 1-0 away defeat to table toppers Birkenhead United U-23 at Shepherd's Park on Saturday.
Inclement weather, lack of pitch availability and less training time have taken a toll on the U-23s in recent weeks but it was a Jack Gillum's goal two minutes from the end of this game that was the biggest blow.
Birkenhead United U-23 and Auckland City FC U-23 started the day level on 39 points with United top of the table with a superior goal difference.
Kris Bright's youngsters have a game in hand, though, and despite losing to Birkenhead United U-23's twice this season (5-1 and 1-0), their destiny is still in their own hands with five games left to play.
City started the game strongly with Legion Rogerson and Will Eng each getting good chances to score while United were relentless in their directness and pace.
Goalkeeper Finn Dockerty had an outstanding game dealing with a myriad of United set-pieces while Rayan Tayeb was also a stand out in midfield.
Bright was disappointed for his players who he said played well only to lose to a scrappy goal off a set-piece at the end.
"We started the game with a very young side and I feel for the players because they worked tirelessly for 90 minutes.
"We've a number of players who have been training with the first team and the OFC Champions League campaign so looked a bit tired.
"Birkenhead didn't have a first team game so brought in some experience from there and had a big strong bench and so I'm very rpoud of my players.
"Even though we lost I thought we came together well, worked together well as a team and were a lot closer together than we've previously seen.
"Anthony Duncan, Riley Sexton and Adam Bell all played well and Adam showed us why he's been in the first team environment this season and made a debut at that level.
"It was a disciplined, hard working display and I couldn't fault the players dedication to attempting to get a result that could've got us even on points with United.
"There are four games to go and we'll continue to try our best right to the end," Bright said.
Auckland City FC U-23's next match is at home to Manukau United U-23 on Saturday 13 August 2022.
Lotto NRFL U-23 Premier Division
Saturday 6 August 2022
Birkenhead United U-23 1 (Jack GILLUM 88')
Auckland City FC U-23 0
AC: 1. Finn DOCKERTY (GK), 2. Jesse GAGE, 3. Riley SEXTON, 5. Marcel STODDARD, 7. Legion ROGERSON (11. Max SUTTON 49'), 8. Anthony DUNCAN, 9. Will ENG (15. Jeremy FOO 59'), 10. Finn McCRACKEN, 16. Rayan TAYEB, 21. Ilham HAMEEDI, 22. Adam BELL.
SUBS NOT USED: 12. Luke ROBB.
COACH: Kris BRIGHT.
ASSISTANT: Paul DRAKE.
Bay Olympic U-23 1-1 Takapuna U-23
North Shore United U-23 1-2 Hamilton Wanderers U-23
Auckland United U-23 7-0 Waiheke United U-23
Manukau United U-23 3-0 Eastern Suburbs U-23
Western Springs U-23 1-4 Melville United U-23
Saturday 1 October 2022, Wellington Olympic, 3pm, Endeavour Park, Wellington