Words: ACFC Media
Saturday 17 July 2021
HAMILTON, New Zealand - Auckland City FC U-23s overcame torrential rain and a dogged Hamilton Wanderers U-23s to notch a vital 3-2 away win in the latest round of Lotto NRFL U-23 Premier Division action at Porritt Stadium today.
It poured with rain for an hour prior to kick-off and continued incessantly after the first blast on referee Craig Audas' whistle.
Wanderers U-23s adapted to the conditions the better but dominating the ball didn't equate to creating chances as surface water accumulated.
But the visitors struck first when Finn McCracken broke clear of Wanderers back line and chipped a thoughtful finish past goalkeeper Michael Moloney on 21 minutes.
McCracken was in the thick of the action five minutes later when he dispossessed a Wanderers defender and squared for Jeremiah Ruawhare to sidefoot home for number two.
The home side clung on but hearts were in mouths when a Ruawhare shot scooped beyond Moloney and struck the base of his left hand upright with a splat after 35 minutes.
The match took a twist when Thomas Walters halved the deficit with a beautifully judged chip that gave Finn Dockerty no chance of saving at the start of the second half.
The visitors carved out an interesting chance ten minutes later when McCracken broke down the left and delivered a rasping cross that split Ruawhare and Rhys Davies with Wanderers goal invitingly wide open.
It proved a mere delay when Ruawhare scored an excellent long range goal to beat Moloney and restore the Navy Blues two goal buffer but he was guilty of missing a gilt-edged opportunity with the goal at his mercy.
As a result, the game hung in the balance, and when Jayden Gozdz connected with a superb header to bring Wanderers back into the equation with eight minutes left to play, there was all to play for.
Ricky Singh caused a few nervy moments none moreso than when his 35 metres strike drifted into Dockerty's side netting with just a minute left.
Coach Kris Bright was satisfied with the result given a raft of injuries, the weather conditions and the youthfulness of his side.
"I was very very pleased with the win, but to be honest, it wasn't an amazing performance but the conditions were absolutely horrific.
"The pitch, the rain and the wind were tough and I was very pleased with the way our players stood up.
"Riley Sexton did very well. He started the season with Wanderers and he delivered a very very solid performance at the back.
"Rhys Davies has come back in and he's only 16 or 17 and he's done very very well.
"Jeremiah Ruawhare scored a couple of goals and he deserved the rewards because he's been training very very well.
"We were worrying at the back end of the game. We didn't have a lot of experience out there today and we've got a few injuries.
"We've got a couple of 16 year olds in there today and it was good for the subs to come into the game and get experience of that situation.
"This was a good win against a good side - Hamilton Wanderers are a very good team and I can't understand why they are where they are in the table," he said.
Lotto NRFL U-23 Premier Division
Saturday 17 July 2021
Hamilton Wanderers U-23 2 (Thomas WALTERS 46', Jayden GOZDZ 82')
Auckland City FC U-23 3 (Finn McCRACKEN 21', Jeremiah RUAWHARE 26', 56')
AC: 1. Finn DOCKERTY (GK), 2. Riley SEXTON, 3. Jesse GAGE, 4. Louie DANIELSON, 6. Wilson FISHER, 9. Finn McCRACKEN, 11. Jeremiah RUAWHARE, 12. Rhys DAVIES, 14. Dempsey THOMAS, 15. Marcel STODDARD, 19. Anthony DUNCAN.
SUBS: 16. Conan REDDY, 20. Kairo JACOBS, 21. Woodie WILSON.
COACH: Kris BRIGHT.
ASSISTANT: Paul DRAKE.