Words: ACFC Media
Saturday 8 May 2021
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC reignited its season as they swept aside Birkenhead United 5-0 at Kiwitea Street today.
While the result was a welcome one for coach José Figueira following last week's loss at North Shore United but was harsh on Paul Hobson's team who played some outstanding football in the first half.
Figueira wasn't without his own problems to seek with a raft of changes to the team that walked out at Allen Hill Stadium.
Cam Howieson returned to the line-up for the first time since the ISPS Handa Premiership grand final in March while Dylan Manickum and Ilham Hameedi were both restored to Figueira's starters with Mohamed Awad was on the bench with goalkeeper Cam Brown and midfielders Deandre Vollenhoven, Reid Drake and Yousif Al-Kalisy dropping out of the squad.
Conor Tracey, last season's first choice keeper and without a first team start since the opening day of the season, started the game and soon showed the time away hasn't affected his reactions with the New Zealand U-23 international pulling off several top quality saves in the first half.
Howieson, like Tracey, marked his return to first team action with the opening goal after just 20 minutes. Ilham Hameedi matched Howieson's sense of occasion when he bagged his first and Auckland City FC's second just four minutes later.
While Auckland City FC were worthy of their two-goal advantage it was harsh on a Birkenhead United side that carved out several clearcut chances only for Tracey to intervene.
The visitors afternoon worsened just before halftime when Angus Kilkolly snatched his fifth goal in seven games to make it 3-0. Kilkolly, who joined the club only recently, has scored in each of his last four matches for the Navy Blues.
Kilkolly underlined his value when he scored the fourth nine minutes into the second half, a delightful shot that left goalkeeper Damian Hirst without a hope.
Substitute Andrew Blake scored his first goal for Auckland City FC when he raced clear of the United defence before drawing Hirst and finishing calmly at the clubrooms end of the ground for the fifth.
It was a fitting end to a day that marked the passing of Auckland City FC and Central United FC supporter Paul Brown, a member of the 248 Service Crew, whose wife, Anne, daughters Eliza and Emma, and son Nick were all in attendance.
Nick, a long time supporter of both clubs, is also the club's media officer responsible primarily for Twitter and post-match interviews with coaches and players.
The former Central United FC front man, Kilkolly, was pleased with the result and goals.
"After last week we were after a reaction after last week which was a big disappointment.
"We were focused ourselves, making sure we brought lots of intensity coming into the game and focused on our performance.
"I think today we put in a pretty good shift," Kilkolly told www.aucklandcityfc.com.
Coach José Figueira reflected on a comprehensive victory against an opponent that turned in a strong performance.
"It was a great result and performance. At half time, I looked at our players and they were out of breath, drenched with sweat and I said to them, 'that's the standard we want.'
"If we have that type of application and attitude, which we have during the week at training, and we've seen last week in patches, then I think over the course of the game we match that with our ability and deliver performances like today.
"I'm pleased for Ilham, he's one of the bright prospects coming through. He works his socks off, like all of the younger players do. Blakey took a little bit longer to score his first goal for the club, but its great to have him back because he brings a different dynamic to the wide area.
"I'm happy for them both. Cam Howieson was feeling just short of match fitness and feeling it a little bit but today was good for him to get 80 minutes or so and build on his recovery, it was good to have him in there.
"Mario Ilich got a few minutes at the end and Adam Thurston was doing some work before the game which keeps people on their toes and maintains our intensity," he told www.aucklandcityfc.com.
Victory returns Auckland City FC to the top of the Northern League after Auckland United were held to a 1-1 draw at home by North Shore United at Waikaraka Park.
Elsewhere, Bay Olympic downed Western Springs 3-2, Manukau United won a crucial showdown with fellow strugglers West Coast Rangers 3-2 while Northern Rovers picked up a much needed win beating Hamilton Wanderers, also by 3-2. Melville United showed a massive improvement from last week's mauling at Shepherds Park when they held Eastern Suburbs AFC to a 1-1 draw at Madills Farm.
Auckland City FC's next Northern League match is at Gower Park in Hamilton when the Navy Blues travel south to face Melville United.
The match kicks off at 3.00pm NZDT.
Saturday 8 May 2021
Auckland City FC 5 (Cam HOWIESON 20', Ilham HAMEEDI 25', Angus KILKOLLY 38', 54', Andrew BLAKE 82')
Birkenhead United 0
AC: 18. Conor TRACEY (GK), 4. Mario BILEN, 6. Brian KALTAK, 7. Cam HOWIESON (2. Mario ILICH 80'), 9. Angus KILKOLLY, 10. Dylan MANICKUM, 12. Sam BROTHERTON, 14. Jordan VALE (17. Andrew BLAKE 64'), 15. Aidan CAREY (21. Matthew ELLIS 75'), 19. Ilham HAMEEDI, 20. Emiliano TADE (c).
SUBS NOT USED: 1. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 22. Mohamed AWAD.
COACH: José FIGUEIRA
ASSISTANT COACH: Ivan VICELICH
GK COACH: Enaut ZUBIKARAI
PHYSIO: Matt PAYNE
TEAM MANAGER: Keith COTON
S&C COACH: Adria CASALS
ANALYST: Jarrod WALLACE/Dan GORDON
Auckland United 1-1 North Shore United
Bay Olympic 3-2 Western Springs
Eastern Suburbs 1-1 Melville United
Manukau United 3-2 West Coast Rangers
Northern Rovers 3-2 Hamilton Wanderers