U-23: Title race goes to the wire

Words: ACFC Media

Saturday 27 August 2022

Picture: Phototek

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - The race for the Lotto NRFL U-23 Premier Division title will go to the final day after Auckland City FC U-23s defeated Eastern Suburbs U-23s 2-0 at the Croatian Cultural Society today.

Goals in each half by Rayan Tayeb and Stipe Ukich, plus a penalty save by Finn Dockerty off former City first teamer Addison Stewart, was enough to give Kris Bright's team a comfortable victory.

Bright, and his assistant Paul Drake, were down to earth about their team's performance, particularly given Stewart's penalty kick was saved and could've changed the complexion of the game.

"It was a mixed performance as a team and as individuals. We took a while to get used to how they played and Suburbs did very well.

"I thought Suburbs were hard done by to lose 2-0 today.

"I thought despite the penalty miss Addison had a good game for them and Finn Dockerty (who conceded the penalty then saved it) is still learning a lot.

"Finn learned a lot against Fiji U-19 midweek and he learned a lot today but he redeemed himself and we went down the other end and scored. 

VIDEO - Stipe Ukich makes it 2-0

"Stipe has played a lot of football recently and he's one for the future - he scored a couple against Fiji U-19 and a good goal today.

"He's come on in leaps and bounds. He only lives down the road from the ground, he's of Croatian heritage and very much a part of this club.

"I'm very happy with Stipe - people forget he's only 15 years old, but he works really hard and always turns up on time.

"At Auckland City FC, there is an expectation that you win games.

"The first team wrapped up the Northern League a few weeks ago then won the OFC Champions League and now they're in a Chatham Cup final.

"They got the job done early and we could possibly have made our life easier by doing the same but its a learning curve," he said.

VIDEO - Finn Dockerty saves Addison Stewart's penalty kick

As for next week's title crunch with Auckland United U-23, Bright was calm. 

"Auckland United U-23 have some very experienced players, they're a very good team and I'm sure they'll want to make their last game of the season a positive one.

"But we're in a good position and it's very much in our own hands," Bright said. 

Nearest challengers Birkenhead United U-23 thrashed Waiheke United U-23 7-1 at Onetangi Domain to stay in touch with City just three points behind with on game to play.

Auckland United U-23's title chase is over despite their 4-0 thumping of Bay Olympic U-23 with United now four points off top spot.

That said, Auckland United U-23 have a pivotal role to play in deciding who will be league champions so what happens next is intriguing.

The Last Day of the Season - Saturday 3 September 2022

Auckland City FC U-23 travel to Keith Hay Park to face a highly motivated Auckland United U-23 side where a win or a draw for City would hand them the title for the second season in a row, regardless of what Birkenhead United U-23 achieve in Beach Haven.

A win would maintain City's three point buffer, and a draw would put them out of Birkenhead's reach by a single point, even if Birkenhead United U-23 beat Manukau United U-23.

If City lose, however, and Birkenhead United U-23 beat Manukau United U-23, then the two clubs would finish the season level on 51 points.

That's when the Lotto NRFL U-23 Premier Division regulations come into play.

They state that the ranking of teams is determined by:

29.4.1 Greatest number of points obtained in all matches in the Competition; then

29.4.2 Greatest goal difference in all matches in the Competition; then

29.4.3 Greatest number of goals scored in all matches in the Competition.

29.4.4 If teams cannot be separated as per 26.5.1, 26.5.2 or 26.5.3 their rankings are decided as per Appendix 1, section 9, Declaration of Winner.

Taking each clause step by step, Birkenhead United U-23 would snatch the title on the last day, if they beat Manukau United U-23 and City lose.

Here's why:

Birkenhead United U-23 have a goal difference of plus 47 to City's plus 38.

Birkenhead United U-23 have also scored an impressive 72 goals to City's 58.

The final clause wouldn't be needed.

Next week, all games kick off at 12.30pm.


Match Result
Lotto NRFL U-23 Premier Division
Saturday 27 August 2022
Auckland City FC U-23 2 (Rayan TAYEB 32', Stipe UKICH 52')
Eastern Suburbs U-23 0
HT: 1-0.

AC: 1. Finn DOCKERTY (GK), 2. Jesse GAGE (c), 3. Riley SEXTON, 5. Marcel STODDARD, 7. Matt ELLIS, 9. Will ENG, 11. Max SUTTON, 16. Rayan TAYEB, 19. Stipe UKICH, 21. Ilham HAMEEDI, 22. Adam BELL.

SUBS: 8. Anthony DUCAN, 10. Finn McCRACKEN, 12. Luke ROBB, 15. Jeremy FOO, 20. Ethan FOO.



Takapuna U-23 3-0 Western Springs U-23
Melville United U-23 6-1 North Shore United U-23
Auckland United U-23 4-0 Bay Olympic U-23
Waiheke United U-23 1-7 Birkenhead United U-23
Hamilton Wanderers U-23 3-0 Manukau United U-23


AUCKLAND CITY FC U-23 - PLAYED: 21 W: 16 D: 3 L: 2 GF: 58 GA: 20 PTS: 51 GD: +38
03 September 2022 v Auckland United U-23 (A) (12.30pm NZDT)

BIRKENHEAD UNITED U-23 - PLAYED: 21 W: 15 D: 3 L: 3 GF: 72 GA: 25 PTS: 48 GD: +47
03 September 2022 v Manukau United U-23 (H) (12.30pm NZDT)

AUCKLAND UNITED U-23 - PLAYED: 21 W: 15 D: 2 L: 4 GF: 68 GA: 21 PTS: 47 GD: +47
03 September 2022 v Auckland City FC (H) (12.30pm NZDT)

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