Winter 2021, week two

A double round over Easter weekend has the Northern League table beginning to take shape.

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There was plenty going on over Easter weekend up and down the country, with a whole bunch of leagues – including the WaiBop Premiership, Central Federation League, Horizons Premiership, Pacific Premiership, Taranaki Premiership, Capital Premier, and Mainland Women’s Premiership – getting underway for 2021. But the most amazing thing was seeing Stephen Hoyle – usually found up front – lining up at centre back for Eastern Suburbs against Western Springs in the Northern League on Good Friday at Seddon Fields. Turns out that was where he played coming through the ranks back in England. Who knew?

Promising signs

As well as two trips to Seddon Fields (Springs beat Suburbs 2-1 on Friday night in a match that featured 11 under-20 starters, more on the other one below) I visited Fred Taylor Park and McFetridge Park over Easter – the home grounds of two ‘new’ Northern League clubs (formed by mergers).

West Coast Rangers went down 2-0 to North Shore United on Friday, despite playing with an extra man for the final 20 minutes, and looking quite impressive at times as they held onto the ball in midfield. What they lacked was any sort of attacking threat in behind, which made life easy for the Shore defence, and with another loss following on Monday, they have now played three and lost three with a single goal to show for their efforts and 11 conceded. There is promise there, but it needs to be translated into end product, quick.

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There is also promise about Northern Rovers, who were beaten 4-1 by Auckland City on Sunday, but were the more cohesive side for large stretches of the first half, before the gulf in individual talent proved the difference as the game wore on, with the final two goals coming in the last 10 minutes. Rovers’ desire to play with the ball shouldn’t come as a surprise, given co-coach Kane Wintersgill has come across from Eastern Suburbs, and they’ll fare better against teams with squads less stacked than City’s – such as Melville United, who they beat 1-0 on Good Friday.

Camp time

NZ Football has been busy dishing out invites to age-group camps in the April school holidays, with under-17 and under-20 women assembling in back-to-back weeks in Auckland, and men born in 2003 & 2004 and 2005 & 2006 assembling in the same week in Cambridge.

There will be more on the makeup of those camps (which mark the start of New Zealand’s campaigns for the 2022 Fifa Under-17 and Under-20 Women’s World Cups, and the 2023 Fifa Under-17 and Under-20 Men’s World Cups) in the weeks ahead, but for now a shoutout to Invercargill clubs Old Boys and Queens Park, who join around 30 others in having reason to be proud. It’s great to see players from the deep south – and other far-flung corners of Aotearoa – being noticed.

Match of the week

Western Springs 3 (Zac Zoricich 13’, Kayne Vincent 41’, 47’) North Shore United 2 (Horace James 33’, 70’). HT: 2-1

The only two teams to make it two wins from two matches in the opening two rounds of the Northern League met under lights at Seddon Fields on Easter Monday to bring the long weekend to a close. The opening goal was scored by Zac Zoricich (son of coach Chris) – one of five under-20 players in Springs’ starting XI – but Horace James soon levelled for Shore, before new signing (and one-cap All White) Kayne Vincent put the home side 2-1 up at the break, then doubled their lead after it. James added a second to set up a tense finish and while Shore huffed and puffed in the final 20 minutes, they couldn’t find a equaliser, so it was Springs who finished the round top of table, ahead of Auckland City, who have now made it two wins from two themselves after skipping the opening round.

Player of the week

Aaron Scott (Melville United)

The veteran centre back came through with a stoppage time equaliser to rescue a point for his side at home in the first Hamilton derby of the new National League/Northern League era. Enough said.

Tweet of the week